Warren Tait, Customer Service Director Neopost.
Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and how you arrived in your current role?
My career can probably be described as a bit of a fairy tale.
I joined Neopost in 1995 when I was 24 years old, email had just taken off and I wanted to get my head down in corporate life. I had worked at a few places prior, but the company cultures never really matched up with what I was looking for and I couldn’t see how my career was going to progress with them.
My first position at Neopost was as a telemarketing executive – it was tough! My primary objective was to cold call businesses, attempting to drum up interest in our products and services. The role was pretty full-on and after six months I was beginning to burn out. I decided that I might be better suited to field sales, despite me not having any previous experience, and I spoke to the regional manager about the role.
However, the move never materialised as I ended up going for another opportunity. I went on holiday and on my return discovered that my boss, the telemarketing supervisor, had resigned. This was a role that I knew I had the skills for and it would truly kick-start my career. I applied and I got it!
Back then, the call centre consisted of three separate departments reporting to marketing, service and finance. The teams were based in separate buildings and were led by different managers. It was all very disjointed and inefficient and, therefore, I decided that making a single sales and service call centre would be my number one priority.
By 1999 I’d been in the role for just two years but I’d achieved quite a bit. I’d taken over a small sales team, introduced new products and services, and tripled the sales revenue. My achievements led me to join the wider group sales team where I reported straight to the sales director for a number of years. It’s fair to say that many of my learning experiences during my time there were ‘colourful’!
After leaving the sales team, I joined the service and operations division. I was tasked with creating a single multi-channel contact centre and was responsible for around 50 employees. Although most of my experience was call centre based, I was now looking after the supply chain and warehousing as well. I learnt many things in the role and I developed a lot personally. By 2008 I had grown my contact centre to around 130 full time employees (FTE) and I was responsible for £20m in sales revenue.
I’m now a member of the executive board and I’ve recently established the new customer services department. I’m very proud of my achievements!
Tell us about Neopost and what the company does
Neopost helps businesses to communicate more effectively, externally and internally, and across all channels. Our legacy is built on franking machines but, as digital continues to change how firms interact, our portfolio has expanded to include software as well.
What has been the company’s greatest success?
The company’s greatest success is helping smaller businesses to overcome the challenges to growth. With their limited budgets, SMEs can’t afford to waste resources on inefficient manual processes and we’re empowering them to perform better and drive growth.
What does the future hold for Neopost?
Digital, digital, digital. New technology is changing the very way that businesses operate and it’s the same story for us – I’m ready for it!
How has the contact centre industry changed since you’ve been involved in it?
I’m going to sound like I’m old now! In the 25 years I’ve worked in call centres, the technology has evolved from rolodex to computers, and now the cloud has transformed everything again. One thing does remain the same, however, the amazing talented people!
What do you think is the greatest challenge faced by the industry today?
Getting the balance right with technology. For example, while the Internet of Things may unlock so many opportunities for businesses and consumers alike, companies can’t forget the power of humans. Firms still need to plan and see things through their customers’ eyes – brands expand and die on this all the time.
Also, call centres shouldn’t try to be a jack of all trades, they should focus on becoming great at a few. Customer preference is changing all the time and the number of channels being used to communicate with them is increasing – you can’t be the best at everything!
What does the future hold for the industry?
Complexity and intelligent or smarter interactions. This means we must invest in our ability to train and develop faster, and business process simplicity is key to this. Do all call centres have business process analysts? I think not!
Which companies do you admire and why?
Apple is the one for me.
I remember when I worked in the advertising industry and the Apple Mac was the ‘in thing’ for the copy staff. It’s always been about the user experience and lack of complexity – well done, Steve Jobs! Forget the IBM story, forget Dell. Apple did it and now it’s the biggest IT company out there. And, of course, what about the iPhone? I can’t be without mine!
If there were one piece of advice you could give to contact centre professionals reading this, what would it be?
Have a plan and be ready for change. If you’re not feeling good in your current role then find another one – there’s so many opportunities out there!
What do you do for fun?
I’ve recently realised that I’m not getting any younger so, against the advice of my wife, I decided to buy myself a toy – a jetski. I’ve even given it a name, ‘Billy’!
The reason for the name is because when I’m out with it I’m normally on my own, so I’m ‘Billy no mates’! I regularly tweet and sign my posts off with #Billy!
I can honestly say that I haven’t had as much fun in many years. I take the kids out and tow them on inflatables and, when I’m wanting some real fast fun, I go down the coast and jump waves at 50 MPH!