August 11, 2016

3 key insights from the 16th Annual Government Contact Centre Summit



I have been in Sydney this week recording podcast interviews with technical leaders south-of-the-border. It never ceases to amaze me just how generous and insightful fellow geeks are. To the geeks of the world: Keep being awesome!

But more on the podcast in a later post…

Main conference hall, Swissotel Sydney

Government Contact Centre Summit 2016, Swissotel Sydney

Earlier in the week I chaired and facilitated parts of the 16th Annual Government Contact Centre Summit. It’s been wonderful to spend time with Contact Centre professionals from around Australia and New Zealand. They are equally as passionate and insightful as the technical leaders, but their primary passion is Customer Experience. Such a critical focus to have, and an underpinning foundation for Digital Transformation.

I caught stand-out presentations from Maree Matthews, Hugh Greenough, Damien Robinson, Chris Jones, and Jennifer Bednar’s tag team presentation with Sasha Lord.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to lead the pre-conference focus day. A much smaller group of 12 dedicated delegates who brought their challenges, experiences and wisdom and shared openly and generously with the group.

What I find really interesting about these sorts of events is the universality of the challenges and the insights. The lessons here are equally as relevant to teams outside of contact centres. In particular, if you’re driving large scale change, rolling out a digital strategy or otherwise, there’s wisdom here. After all, digital transformation is 50% people.


Challenges that emerged from discussions throughout the day were:

  1. Managing capacity in contact centres is extremely challenging
    • It’s hard to predict spikes in demand
    • It’s difficult to survive when multiple staff are unexpectedly absent on the same day
  2. Innovation is really challenging
    • Large organisations are extremely risk averse, which stifles new ideas
    • Small organisations just don’t have the spare capacity to focus on innovation
  3. Positive culture is hard to maintain in small teams
    • A single agitator can drag the entire team down with them


Themes emerged from presentations and discussions to address the challenges above.

1. Staff engagement is key

The main concern for challenge 1 seemed to be that staff were unexpectedly absent due to low engagement (i.e. staff just weren’t feeling good about coming to work). There were plenty of fantastic ideas in the room to help address this.

  • Encouraging balance
    • Time to debrief with each other (emotional)
    • Time to stretch, do light exercise, provide fruit or encourage healthy activites and eating (physical)
    • Time to reflect and improve how things work (intellectual)
  • Encouraging equity. Damien Robinson shared his approaches to ensure that even contact centre staff get to take time away from the phones as a team
    • Either short meetings in the morning (available via Google Hangouts and recorded for those who can’t attend)
    • Backfill the contact centre from volunteers in the business so the regular contact centre staff can go out for end-of-year lunch celebration together.
  • This idea of borrowing volunteers from the business to help scale up the phone channel during emergencies was also seen as a useful technique for managing capacity.
    • And should be considered a valuable technique outside of contact centres. Why couoldn’t teams around your organisation help each other out more to balance the ebbs and flows of demand?
  • Empowering staff
    • There was discussion around the idea of control quotient, and empowering staff to have more control over how they do their work.
    • Only taking on work where the team can truly add value.
    • Setting a goal and some boundaries, but allowing staff flexibility within them to get the job done in a way that works best for them.
  • See also #3 below around spreading a positive culture and values.

2. Innovation can be small, and can come from within

  • Innovation doesn’t always have to be disruptive or large scale. Incremental or iterative change can be powerful over time.
  • Customer Service Advisors are an amazing source of well-informed insight and innovative ideas
    • They are in direct contact with customers
    • They think in a customer-centric way
    • They like to make the workplace and service delivery better for others

3. Positive culture and values can be spread top down, or bottom up

  • There were a few examples of where positive culture and values had been generated collaboratively at grass-roots level and spread around an organisation really successfully.
    • Collaboration and co-design generate buy-in and clarity
    • Being involved generates passion and advocates who spread the key messages
    • People feel much more in control of their destiny because they helped to shape it, and they understand it clearly
  • Maree Matthews also gave an excellent example in her presentation of how they had embedded the Queensland Government values inside her organisation and made it real for staff.
    • Regular peer-recognition is aligned to the values, so they are recognising each other and reinforcing when the right culture and behaviours are shown.
    • The values have also shaped changes to the way they measure quality and undertake performance assessment.

Thank you

Thank you to those who attended the focus day. Your insights were very much appreciated and your warmth and open discussion made the day a pleasure to be involved with.

Your email address will not be published.Field is required

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Related Posts

You may also like these. If not, just go back to the overview: