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Why nuisance calls are an even bigger nuisance for the call centre industry.

It’s early evening, you’re just winding down after a hard day, and the phone rings.

But it isn’t a call from friend or family, it’s someone offering to reclaim mis-sold payment protection insurance or pursue accident claims.

These nuisance calls are without doubt a blight on society, but this week the mainstream media such as the BBC and The Telegraph were hot with news of an end to cold calling.

The end is in sight.

At present, companies can only be fined for ignoring rules on this irritating practice; but many simply declare bankruptcy, only to reopen under a different name.

But come next Spring, these nuisance calls could become a thing of the past thanks to a change in the law. By making directors personally liable, any breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations could see the people behind these companies fined up to £500,000.

Consumer group Which? said it was a "massive victory". But it’s not just consumers who will benefit from the change in legislation, call centres and their agents should also welcome and applaud the move.

When nuisance calls affect us all.

This type of unsolicited cold calling is generally associated with 'opportunist' businesses, whereby the person being called has no previous association with the business making the calls.

Companies who are reputable and have good relationships with customers, do not need to rely on cold calling to obtain a sale or announce new products. Instead they rely on their quality of service to draw this business in, rather than go looking for it.

A company that sets high standards for customer contact, will generally have other means to prepare a customer for a call. They will provide an 'alert' that a service is due for renewal, such as sending an SMS or email, informing them that they may receive a call. At this point the customer has a choice, do they call the company themselves or wait for the call? That is the fundamental difference - the customer is given a choice.

Unscrupulous businesses prioritise their own needs over those of its customers which gives cold calling a bad rap (and rightly so!).

The problem is that nuisance cold calls have become such an imposition on our daily life, that when a company calls with a bona fide reason, an agent first has to overcome the initial barrier that the call is unwanted.

As a result, it makes the work of the agent even harder. Agents need to feel that any calls that they make to customers are welcome and add value, rather than being perceived as harassment.

So while we welcome the clampdown on cold calling, it also serves to highlights the problem of keeping agents engaged and motivated, especially when making a large number of outbound calls.

Workforce Engagement Management isn’t just a buzzword.

It’s all about how call centres value, coach, motivate and reward their agents.

As we reported in a previous blog, The end of the call centre as we know it, at the heart of this movement is the shift from Workforce Optimisation to Workforce Engagement Management, a trend which is supported by Gartner.

In a recently published paper, Gartner recognises that traditional operational management techniques are already failing, and in order to keep agents motivated and develop elevated agent capabilities, there needs to be shift of focus to employee engagement.

This is where Gamification comes into play. Gamification is proven to mobilise the required behaviours, through the introduction of user-friendly dashboards, game mechanics, social interaction and material rewards.

When Atos trialled Gamification, its impact was immediate. In just the first three months after implementation Atos saw a reduction in AHT, a consistent improvement in agent performance and a sharp uplift in overall customer satisfaction of 3%.

The end of nuisance calls may help, but there is still work to be done.

Poor performance, absenteeism and churn are rife in the sector. So if your call centre is to survive and prosper, it is imperative that you create a better, more engaging environment; where every agent is recognised as a valued individual and rewarded appropriately.

Being called during a relaxing evening by an ambulance chaser is a nuisance. Losing agents, customers and clients is a downright disaster!