Lynda Campbell, Director of LJC Associates and guiding light behind the transformation of energy giant British Gas’ contact centre operations, addressed Caerphilly Business Forum’s most recent breakfast seminar. In it, she spoke on her experience of affecting direct cultural change – the challenges involved, and the incorporation of strategies and benchmarks to translate to real, verifiable business success.
To begin, Lynda spoke about her background – particularly her efforts towards gaining a Masters in Psychology. She confirmed: “I know what to do…. how to lead”. She specified the benefits of the qualification, particularly its use in codifying what she already knows are successful styles – looking at why, something works.
Providing background of the environment within British Gas when the project began in 2008/09, Campbell noted that in a team of nearly 1,500 people, nearly one in 10 interactions with customers resulted in complaints. Turnover was, on average, equivalent to 12 people hired and 12 people leaving per week. In addition, their Net Promoter score, an index ranging from -100 to +100 which measures how willing a customer was to recommend a company to others, sat at -13.
To begin, Campbell said, she approached the key stakeholders with her vision. Increasing profit and staff retention, while improving customer service. Naturally, they agreed. The plan, on its completion, was taken on board by the British Gas senior leadership, and rolled out to other comparable locations within the business network.
By the end of the two-and-a-half-year process, the Cardiff-based call centre was down to just six complaints per 1,000, with significantly reduced turnover rates, a Net Promoter Score raised to +63, and vastly boosted staff morale. One of the initial changes was to remove counter-productive team leaders, retraining the remainder into ‘people developers’, and hire staff based on this new way of working. The change, Campbell confirmed, was not an easy one. She noted that 90% of senior leaders were not right for their new culture.
On the strategy behind this achievement, Campbell listed the details behind her ten-point plan – each aspect driving towards her five key goals for the company. These five goals included raising their Net Promoter Score (the original aim was simply to hit zero), grow the business, and assess accurately how people felt about their role at British Gas.
These ten key points ranged from beginning with a vision, identifying the current culture and climate within the business, to seeking the right leadership talent to develop the right sort of culture. Campbell confirmed that redefining the company around the idea of continuous improvement was essential in gaining staff buy-in, but more important was ensuring a two-way conversation – trusting the staff to help achieve their long-term goals.
Campbell noted that, of the remaining staff, her biggest challenge was converting the ‘change makers’ – staff members with the potential to make a real difference. She noted that in order to improve company culture and demonstrate trust in staff, KPIs were removed entirely. Initially, the response was sub-par. After a few weeks, however, these change makers – staff that had previously been deeply ingrained in negative culture, recognised the potential working environment that was being driven towards. They rallied the staff and improved output – all in response to Campbell’s genuine efforts to improve their working life. A change for the better at British Gas.
In closing, and addressing an audience member’s query, when asked what she would do differently if given the chance, Campbell replied: “If I did it again, I would move all leadership [that was ultimately removed] out sooner. They didn’t have what we were looking for.”
The next breakfast seminar will see Kim Talbot of Swansea University / ION discussing what effective leadership means, and the ROI you can expect from getting it right. Register to attend here.