Impact – The difference made
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Centrica utilised Office 365, primarily Yammer, to create a modern, innovative and agile culture, giving our people a voice and inspiring them to share their great ideas to improve the business.
Ease of sharing good ideas:
Launching the global ideas scheme ‘Make A Good Idea Count’ via this social, public platform has successfully connected and empowered employees. Capturing employee ideas on social media is particularly powerful as this approach leverages a communications channel so often used in our everyday modern lives. Previous idea schemes deployed at Centrica spread across different platforms, involving heavy administration, inconsistency, and teams working in silos in closed communications channels. Through the social media approach, MAGIC reaches more people and ultimately captures substantially more and better ideas.
Effective tracking of ideas:
Through partnering with the innovative tech company and Start-ups 100 constituent, Sideways 6, British Gas can carry out detailed analysis on their employees’ ideas, enabling them to quantify those which will have the biggest impact. Sideways 6 bring something totally new to the table, as their innovation platform is the first and only one for managing, analysing, and reviewing ideas that were submitted via internal social media. The platform is constantly being refined and improved through our development relationship. With Yammer and Sideways 6 we now capture, manage, and review approx. 800 ideas per month. Our people can see their ideas count, and are carefully managed, tracked and really driven forward through a robust idea-management system.
Connectivity with Senior Leaders:
When an idea is posted on the ‘MAGIC’ Group on Yammer, the MAGIC Team carry out cost Vs Benefit analysis, and then work to identify the right decision-maker for the idea. This person is then ‘tagged’ into the idea post on the Group, and asked to comment on feasibility and whether they can implement the idea. This process means that our people can feel totally connected, with complete transparency between themselves and senior decision-makers/leaders. User feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with people pointing to feeling valued, empowered, and involved in the future of the business.
Connectivity with colleagues in other business areas:
MAGIC is available for all employees across Centrica as a truly global tool. Our main users are currently based in our contact-centre environments, with a growing membership from our Field-based engineers and workers, and increasing amounts of activity coming from support functions like HR, I.T and ‘back office’ teams. In September, we had our first global ideas collaboration focusing on improving safety of our employees:
An idea that come from the safety collaboration was to discourage customer from calling us whilst they are driving. As we know that talking on the phone and driving can reduce concentration on the road ahead. Now, when a customer calls us from a mobile phone, the system recognises this and advises them that if they are driving that they may wish to call us back at a time that is more convenience and safer for them to do so.
This was an exciting time for all, as we realised the size of MAGIC’s scope across the globe – we’re looking forward to future collaborations to harness the knowledge and customer service mentality of our north American colleagues! If we can facilitate this sort of interaction, across teams, offices, sites and countries, tapping into our people’s great ideas, then the future looks very bright indeed!
Since launch in August 2016, some key milestones have been hit including >8K employees joining the MAGIC Group on Yammer, and >100 great ideas having been made a success. Here are some of the standout successes:
- Allow customers to text back!
Manish Kawthankar from the Complaints Team in Mumbai, Sadia Bashar from the Team in Leicester, and Wayne Harry from the complaints Team in Cardiff suggested enabling customers to communicate with BG using SMS Text. It was a simple suggestion – British Gas currently text customers to advise them when the company has tried to phone them, but don’t give the customer the option of texting back; why not give the customer this option? Texting could be used to keep the customer updated with the resolution of their complaint. A small change, with a potentially big impact – revolutionising the way employees communicate with customer. We carried out a three-month trial across two offices (Cardiff and Mumbai) found that: repeat complaints fell to 0%, compared with 5% BAU average number of cases closed between 0-4 days moved from 4.6 to 15.6 complaint handling time (a major regulatory target) reduced by 2 days customer satisfaction increased from 6% to c22% systems were more up to date, impacting other business areas employee satisfaction increased. This month 2-way text was rolled out in September to all complaints teams across British Gas.
This now means that effort on the customer has now been reduced as customers no longer must make that telephone call, leading to reduced customer effort and improved satisfaction. and the way the company resolves complaints, saving £5M in Operating Costs
- Please stop sending our final bills separately!
We have many customers who’ve opted for combined energy bills, yet if they decide to leave us or move home their final bills were sent out separately. This was very frustrating for our customers as they would frequently have credit on one energy and a bill with the other that we often refunded their credit then sent them a bill to pay for the other energy used. On 10th August, a new process was deployed; to wait 10-14 day from when we get the first read from the industry, increasing the chance of us receiving the other read before we send the bill.
This will allow around 90% of our combined energy bill customers to get one accurate combined final bill (rather than the current set up where they get one per fuel).Predicted to reduce annual call volumes by 12,100, annual complaints by 9,800 and reduce annual costs by £210,000, this is something to shout about!
- Improve our App!
One of our employees; David Howells from our Energy contact centre, Cardiff spent 3 months developing his idea, involving specialists and managers. He had several ideas on how we could improve customer experience when using our app. The Digital Transformation Team were looking at making managing energy accounts easier, and they loved David’s ideas and invited David to spend time with the developers, seeing his idea brought to life.
David told us, “It was eye opening to see what other parts of the business do and my ideas coming to life. It’s been a fantastic opportunity. Meeting with the developers and receiving feedback on my idea was a great boost; it has driven me to do more in my day to day role to improve things for our customers. The prototype is a reality; a release schedule is confirmed and I’m looking forward to working alongside the Mobile Development Team to bring the new Mobile App to our customers. I would like to thank everyone involved. It’s amazing that a single idea can make such a big difference. No matter how big or small, put your ideas forward and they can become a reality!”
David’s Manager, Nilesh, said,“Dave has really brought our customers’ insight to life by understanding what they want and turning these ideas into actual designs. The first version of this app will be released around October, and more functionalities will be dropped into further releases over the next 1-2 years. Straight from our front line to our customers! Well Done Dave!”
Keith, the Product Development Manager, said, “As this collaboration illustrates, ideas and features should come from all employees within an organisation.” Going forward, Keith will continue to use Dave’s input to shape the concepts he develops!
Innovation – What’s distinctive about this entry and how has being creative helped you overcome challenges
Centrica has always given employees forums to speak up, having numerous ‘feedback’ schemes across the various business units. But it was the bravery to stop and say, ‘let’s do things differently’, and to really rip up the rule book and start again which has made all the difference.
We previously provided people with a tool to send feedback, yet we did not always have the right information or ability to do anything valuable with this feedback. For example one of the most common posts used to be ’Customer doesn’t like our bill’, yet we did not have any way of knowing what it was that they didn’t like and what would work better! By the time anyone asked the submitter about it they wouldn’t be able to recall the details! One such feedback scheme, ‘what drives you crazy’, received between 25k and 30k posts per annum, yet only 2% were ideas that the business could implement – the focus was more on what ‘drove the agent crazy’ rather than what they thought could work better going forward. This didn’t really empower people, instead it just caused them to realise their frustrations, without encouraging positive solution-focused thinking.
Being creative and looking to a modern tech solution and a brave, honest approach with leaders and decision makers has given rise to an idea-based culture, where our people feel empowered. Innovation comes in the form of utilising Microsoft 365 software, Sideways 6’s third party data-mining tool, and a internal ‘MAGIC’ process and system which enhances overall employee experience with definite business benefits
MAGIC has been innovative for British Gas, creating and growing a new culture, one where change comes from employees rather than from an ‘ivory tower’. Making MAGIC a true ‘bottom-up approach’, using the knowledge of frontline employees and real customer contact, provides such valuable insight. We can see what our employees and customers want, what they need, and utilise their insight. Our people have the MAGIC group to hand whenever they have that lightbulb moment, since it is on Yammer they can even pop it on when on their train ride home, or sat in front of the telly and the idea comes to them – it works round the clock.
Centrica’s key focuses over the past 2 years and looking forward are saving on efficiency, delivering a better service to customers, offering new products and propositions to entice and excite customers, and becoming modern and innovative to keep up with the changing needs of our customers. MAGIC now features at Leadership Conferences and key stakeholder meetings, as it’s seen as the tool helping us to achieve all these targets. Who better to suggest on efficiency savings than those feeling the inefficiencies first hand? Who better to tell us what customers want than those who speak to them day-in and day-out? Who better to suggest new products than those visiting and talking to customers in their homes?
Inspiration – Hints and tips from your real experience to help your fellow professionals (the judges) adopt your good ideas and apply them to suit their circumstances.
The MAGIC Team are now recognised externally as running a successful ideas scheme and having an innovative culture where people feel empowered. We’ve been both panel and guest speakers at numerous corporate events, helping other companies to see how they too can give their people a voice, and improve employee engagement.
We tend to reference a few key principles learnt from our journey over the past 2 years:
- Ensure leaders are behind your ideas scheme
- Have stakeholder and decision-makers in place (a matrix of who’s in charge of what and what projects are running), with people prepared to listen to, respond to, and implement good ideas
- Encourage honesty in stakeholder responses – if the idea isn’t possible, then say so
- Track the ideas through various stages with controls at each gate. Ensure the idea originator is aware of each stage and what is happening with their idea. Get them involved as much a possible
- Recognise successful good ideas (we award vouchers and a certificate presented by a senior leader)
- Have a strong launch of the scheme, with consistent branding, imagery, language and a colour palette. Make the brand visible on site, and get managers to talk about it in team meetings
- Travel to various sites and areas to host roadshow stalls to tell people what is how, how to use it, why to use it and why it matters – ultimately what it means to them on a personal level