Agency of the Year: Contact Centre Agency of the Year - Garlands

Garlands has achieved huge growth this year thanks to its dedication to customer satisfaction, training and retaining staff.

This year's Marketing Contact Centre Agency of the Year has achieved 75% growth, more than double its rate in 2003, and has seen revenues rise to £28m. Those achievements could see Garlands jump from 12 to seventh in Marketing's league table early next year.

In a market driven largely by technology, Garlands has always stood out for its focus on staff training and development. It holds that success comes as much from agents who are consistently helpful, friendly and informed as from state-of-art systems.

The agency has expanded its Hartlepool Marina headquarters and the Middlesbrough centre it opened in 2003, and is creating another centre at Stockton-on-Tees. That has been matched by an increase in staff by 1000 to 2600.

Remarkably, this growth has been achieved almost entirely by extending contracts with existing clients, such as Cable & Wireless, Virgin Mobile, Virgin.net and Wanadoo, having made a strategic decision to pursue this approach rather than pitch for new business.

An increasing number of companies ask for 'end-to-end' support, which Garlands provides in the form of outbound campaigns and cross- and upselling on inbound calls, as well as handling enquiries, registrations and back-office administration.

Virgin.net asked Garlands for a customer service centre to support its broadband service. Within six months, customer satisfaction levels had soared from 56% to 83%. An independent survey found that Virgin.net now boasts the highest level of satisfaction of the eight top consumer ISPs for product and service.

Cable & Wireless has increased the range of services handled by Garlands over the past four years. 'Customer satisfaction has always been inherent in its culture, and this has been demonstrated by improvements of 30% in our survey results,' says Jackie David, Cable & Wireless' head of outsource.

David praises the agency's ability to provide support at very short notice and to adapt to changed circumstances. When improved performance led to fewer service calls being made by Cable & Wireless customers, Garlands reassigned staff to chase non-payers. The client retrieved £2.2m, more than the cost of the annual contract.

The agency maintains that success follows from close attention to agent training and morale. Its groundbreaking Touch programme has won many accolades. Agents are encouraged to get involved in community work - mentoring in local schools, for example. Some present programmes on the company's in-house radio station.

By engaging in listening, public speaking and presentation, agents improve their telephone skills, making them more effective in sales and service. Their success helps reduce staff attrition, a big problem in the industry.

The agency has invested in HR and payroll systems this year, and has 'massively' beefed up its talent team, employing 16 development specialists and bringing all its training in-house.

Garlands has also kept staff morale high by providing a pleasant environment. In its new centre Garlands has provided subtle lighting, flowers and pictures, and relaxation areas equipped with pool tables, TVs and leather sofas.

Three years ago Garlands was one of the first to practise 'agent-matching', in which callers are connected to agents who have a similar age, background and accent. This greatly increases the effectiveness of telephone work and has been adopted by a number of outsourcers.

At Garlands the technique is being supported by technology. For a mobile phone client, it has invested in a system to identify the type of caller agents are most comfortable dealing with - older or single people, or those from a specific region, for instance.

The agency has been quick to benefit from developments in other areas. As an early adopter of Aspect's Contact Server, a system that alerts agents to customers details as they ring in, Garlands' agents can greet callers by their name and go straight in to discuss their preferences.

The priority for Garlands now is to take a step back and see where the company is going in 2005. To that end it has commissioned an independent survey of its clients to establish what it can do to improve its services still further.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2003: MM Group

2002: BeCogent

2001: MM Group

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message