British Gas Services (BGS) is the largest domestic central heating and gas appliance installation company in the UK, directly employing more than 8,000 engineers to carry out servicing and breakdown services. The BGS contact center operation comprises five Area Service Centers (handling inbound and outbound service contacts) and a National Center (handling new business, membership and retention calls). BGS’ 1,690 full-time contact center personnel deal with more than 3.4 million British Gas customers.
Motivation for Change
Eighteen months ago, resource planners were bogged down in processing exceptions and managing holidays rather than in forward planning and there were attrition and performance issues in BGS’ contact center operations.
Clearly, this was not a recipe for success. A root and branch investigation of operations identified several areas that needed attention – from the way employee schedules were created and implemented, to the manner in which candidates were identified and recruited.
In the resource scheduling area, BGS introduced new training to upskill its resource planners and invested in new workforce optimization tools.
Already a heavy user of Alvaria technology, BGS decided to upgrade to the latest version of the workforce management tool, Alvaria Workforce. As well as gaining a new user interface, BGS also invested in two enhancement modules for Alvaria Workforce:
Perform: provides management with an at-a-glance view of agent activity in real time and compares that to scheduled activities.
Empower: gives BGS agents the ability to make holiday and some in-day exception requests on a self-serve basis; plus enables BGS Team Managers (TMs) to schedule one-on-ones and team time. The Notification Server part of Empower lets TMs and agents know about changes when requests have been approved.
BGS has realized substantial benefits through its technology investments. Overall, costs have fallen by more than £600,000 per annum.
Through more efficient resource planning, introducing self-service for agents and Team Managers and upskilling its planners, BGS has cut its local resource planning team from 40 to 28 heads, an annualized cost saving of £252,000 – while bringing about greater employee empowerment and schedule adherence.
In addition, by introducing resource scheduling self-service, the business has been able to localize systems access control within the resource teams at an additional annualized saving of £50,000 and to absorb some additional resource planning activity (e.g. manpower reporting for other areas at the sites) at no additional cost.
And, in 2007, BGS overall Employee Engagement scores leapt five percent to 4.2 (on a 5-point scale) while annual attrition fell by 21 percent.
Alvaria Workforce has also enabled more flexible working by tracking employees that are contracted to do:
1. Swing contracts: employees do extra hours during the busy winter season in exchange for time off during the summer months or extra holiday.
2. Reserved hours contracts: employees are contracted to work overtime hours, calculated at ‘time and a half’.
3. ‘Take five’ contracts: employees get five hours bonus pay for working five occasions of five overtime hours.
In the future, BGS plans to extend its use of Alvaria Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) tools by developing personal accounts for staff so that they can monitor and track their investment time, public holiday working and seasonal hours working. It also plans to extend self-service facilities to cover shift trades and develop the scope of workforce optimization to cover the whole of the Area Service Center footprint.
In recognition of its achievements, BGS was listed as one of the top 50 places to work in the 2007 Best Workplaces list – a very rare achievement for a company of its size. BGS’ Retention Department also recently picked up the UK Customer Contact Association (CCA) “Best Use of Certification” award and won the 2008 Professional Planning Forum award for Innovation.