Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and how you arrived in your current role?
My career has been aided and abetted by a few charismatic bosses and rogues along the way and I’ve rarely been in a job that I didn’t enjoy, which is a rare thing according to my friends complaints over the years.
I have worked in customer service for over twenty years and started fresh faced from University in a collections call centre in 1994 in order to fund my jet set London lifestyle (a rented room in Palmers Green).
I quickly got the contact centre bug because I loved the fast moving nature of the environment and over the course of a few different companies I took the traditional steps to Team Leader, Contact Centre Manager and Head of Department.
My career was really developed in fantastic companies like Vodafone, Carphone Warehouse and the Performing Right Society (PRS) where I was responsible for contact centre teams from 100 to 600 people and I began to raise my head above the day to day operation and think more strategically.
To support this, I completed my MBA with Henley Business School which was challenging and very rewarding, effectively getting the brain working at a different level.
I have always been quite agnostic about sector and have worked in Telecoms, Retail, Regulation, Music and now Housing, always trying to bring my customer experience box of tricks to bear into which ever challenge the new sector delivers.
Moving to Housing several years ago has been a really rewarding choice, it’s a sector that is ambitious for change and has the customer experience as a real priority.
Tell us about L&Q and what the company does
L&Q is one of the UK’s leading charitable housing associations.
We are London’s largest landlord and one of the country’s largest residential property developers. We own and manage more than 70,000 homes across London and the South East.
As with other social landlords, every penny of any surplus we make is invested back into providing more and better homes and services to customers.
What has been the company’s greatest success?
L&Q are very commercially successful in Housing sector terms and this allows us to deliver our social mission successfully.
L&Q are trying to make a difference to the housing shortage and a great example of this is our ambitious plan to build a further 50,000 homes in the next ten years.
What does the future hold for L&Q?
We have exciting development projects that will make a difference to the Housing supply and to people that are desperate to move into a new home
We have recently announced one of the most ambitious new developments in the UK, possibly the largest undertaken in sector history.
We are partnering with the GLA to redevelop the old Barking PowerStation site into a new town the size of Windsor, delivering 10,800 new homes, around a third of which will be affordable, even creating a new underground station in the process.
How has the contact centre industry changed since you’ve been involved in it?
In so many ways it’s beyond recognition in terms of systems allowing Omni channel access points, and the increased power of the customer due to social media and smart technology. This has increased our need for accountability and transparency enormously which is no bad thing.
I also believe that it’s stayed exactly the same when I hear a really fantastic CSA fully engaging with a customer in a genuine conversation and loving his job, as I did today.
What do you think is the greatest challenge faced by the industry today?
It’s probably the rush to digital as the savior of all ill’s !
It’s hard to deny that digital is the future but it’s only going to succeed when companies spend time simplifying their processes and planning every activity with the customer in mind. I think the risk is that lots of companies are looking at digital primarily as a cost saving exercise rather than as an enabler for the customer.
Technology is fabulous but it’s still about getting the right people with the right behaviour’s to deal with your customers, whatever the channel.
What does the future hold for the industry?
In a nutshell. Transactional work off to self-service and complex queries to real people. Anything that involves emotion will still need a voice.
I think the traditional contact centre environment will change dramatically with flexible working and agile/homeworking approaches on the increase.
Which companies do you admire and why?
I love Amazon.
Simple, innovative and easy to do business with…they call you in seconds when you push a button on their website…talk about a frictionless journey.
If there were one piece of advice you could give to contact centre professionals reading this, what would it be?
Don’t wait for perfect…
Whatever it is, if its 60% ready, launch it and make iterative improvements along the way based on customer feedback. In one year everything will have changed anyway.
What do you do for fun?
I have three boys (aged 1, 5 and 16) – that means my home life is very loud and unrelentingly testosterone driven around dinosaurs, pepper pig, karate, football, GCSE’s and outdoing each other (my poor wife).
As a hobby I try my hand at photography – I think I am a great photographer, people say I just have an expensive camera that makes me look good…what do they know about the art and my suffering !