7 Ways to Build Employee Engagement and Capabilities in a CX Transformation


Too many people still get the technological transformations of their customer experience wrong because they don’t invest in the human capabilities that surround it.

That’s the view of Sumo Energy’s Managing Director of Customer Experience and Growth, Peter Perla, who met CMO at the recent Genesys G-Summit event in Sydney to talk about how the Tier 2 energy retailer worked to avoid insolvency, grew its service experience and processes, and is now showing growth rates that outperform many of its competitors.

Founded in 2015, Sumo Energy experienced significant growth in its first years of operation. But a lack of investment in operations and processes had left the company facing insolvency six months into Perla’s four-year tenure. With shareholders opting to double down rather than exit, a new CEO was installed and Perla was elevated to the management team to play a strategic role in building the organization and then steered towards the growth.

Over the past three years, Perla has spearheaded a transformation of Sumo Energy’s customer service and contact center capabilities, replacing disparate technology systems with PureCloud and rebuilding processes from the ground up.

“The challenge we had was a lot of disparate systems and we had outsourced a lot. It was hard to see where the customer was. I needed to dissect everything in the setup and start from base camp,” he said. -he declares.

The first big decision was to deploy the PureCloud platform as a foundational, integrated capability, and then bring it all back to basics. Early use cases focused on automating transactions and campaigns where possible, such as credit management. Sumo Energy is now back to managing growth, increasing revenue by 35% last year.

“About a year ago, I felt like we were out of crisis mode and had earned the right to grow again and invest more in technology,” Perla said. “Where a lot of people get it wrong is that they think I will invest in technology and get a return on it. It’s not that simple – you have to invest in your capabilities to deliver the technology.

Here, Perla shares the employee engagement steps it has taken to ensure Sumo Energy’s capabilities can realize the potential of its technology, improve customer experience and maximize growth.

Team cross-competence

One of the first steps was to consolidate the skills of the entire contact center. “When you’re bleeding money, you have to streamline your workforce. I was bringing a lot of stuff from offshore to onshore. The only way was to develop the cross-skills of our agents,” Perla said.

“Having the platform has allowed me to perform skill-based routing using what’s inherent in the app.”

Helping to understand performance is another string to this bow. Sumo Energy is now embarking on the adventure of speech analysis with the aim of using it practically from an operational point of view. Already, the team is measuring sentiment as a primary indicator of whether or not work needs to be done with an agent, or if a customer event is about to go wrong. Then it comes to the next value-added activity.

For Sumo Energy, cross-selling its broadband offering and validating email addresses are high priorities. Using this technology, Perla can see if an agent has taken 40 calls and identify what percentage offered the broadband product.

“Before, we had never sold it and we were not cut. You cannot listen to all calls. It was amazing – once you let the team know you can measure that, it helps build momentum,” Perla said. “Then you invest in the coaching stuff. And we have seen an increase in our telecommunications sales results as a result. »

Be transparent about the reality of the company

Transparency around Sumo Energy’s financial situation was another imperative for Perla and the management team.

“When you’re about to take a career off a cliff and the organization won’t be there, you have a hot platform. But there’s an air of cynicism and people are disengaged,” he said. he explained. “That was the biggest problem – people didn’t know if they would get a job or not. Then you get to cost rationalization and layoffs. What you’re left with is what you have to work with.

“One of the things we did was be very clear and transparent about where the organization is and the plan moving forward.”

Have shared KPIs

Sumo Energy introduced shared KPIs so that everyone has the same bonus structure and goal, from CFO to front line agent and product manager. These were tied to financial numbers such as customer growth and retention plus cost of service.

“Once you have that, reinforce it and everyone realizes we’re all lined up here, and then you start pushing through,” Perla said.

Take the time to invest in people

Another thing Perla did, driven by the need for all-around service agents to sell, was spend a lot of time investing in people. To do this, he reduced operating hours by 30 minutes so that he could train staff every day.

“It’s a great way to create engagement. Every morning everyone is there and whether it’s sales or compliance or what’s happening on calls, we go through it together” Perla said, “As you build this collaboration and people are obsessed with the results, that’s where you get a real breakthrough. For example, every Tuesday we have ‘Tuesday of Compliance” to review compliance issues. We make sure to keep it fresh.

This worked particularly well during the Covid lockdowns, when everyone was working from home.

“We had half an hour where everyone was talking about what we were trying to solve or what problem we were trying to solve,” Perla said. “Once a month we take everyone through the financials so they really understand where the business is at. This sharing of information is really how we built engagement.

Troubleshoot agent issues

Having worked in contact centers for 20 years, Perla is well aware that failure to address obvious issues that agents view as disempowering and results in a drop in engagement levels.

“The officers know what needs to be fixed. If they don’t see it fixing themselves, they cut themselves off and become discouraged or just accept,” he said. “One of the things we are doing is active service recovery. As soon as we identify a problem, it enters a process where we address it, prioritize it and move on. When you’re small and nimble, it’s easy to do. We are an organization of over 60 people, so we have the visibility and the capacity to do that.

Build and operate your feedback loop

To help Sumo Energy stay on track with customer retention, Perla will soon be implementing an after-call survey. To do this, an SMS will be generated after the call for customers to leave feedback and give an NPS score. This text feedback will come back in real time. Again, that level of insight and constant feedback loop will drive employee engagement, he agreed.

“It will give us a really good idea of ​​what’s going on and whether the experience is what it should be or not. We’re very close to implementing it,” Perla said. “The goal is to really understand what customers think and their feedback.Every customer who gives us negative feedback will be someone we will come back to and solve the problem.They are quite surprised that we take the time to do something with the feedback.

Further automation of transactions, particularly around integration, is another priority. “We’ve had significant sales growth and the integration is your real moment of truth and there’s where we’re tracking things. This can be through emails, phone calls, letters sent asking the customer to call you back,” Perla said.

“We are looking at how we can do automated messaging, identify the customer, send the SMS, the customer comes back and everything is transparent.

Know your customer

“When we started looking at this stuff, we realized nobody really wanted to call their energy retailer. Once you realize that, what you need to do is stop the service outages. But when they ring, they arrive and have an efficient and memorable experience and hopefully won’t have to talk to us again.

“We’ve worked hard on our customer contact rate, and we’ve dropped to 7% of the base contacting us per month.”

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