Allstate Northern Ireland are finalists in 2 brilliant categories this year – ‘Best Service Desk’ and ‘Best Service Improvement Project’. We had the chance to ask them a few questions about their awards experience so far, and what their key to success is!
What made you decide to enter the awards?
We are proud of our people, and we wanted a platform to share our story of the impact that the Allstate Technical Support Centre (ATSC) makes to Allstate’s customers, employees and agents. What better way than entering for the Best Service Desk award and competing within the prestigious SDI community. We knew that SDI has been inspiring service desks and service desk professionals worldwide to be brilliant! We want to share our brilliant story!
Over the last year we have rapidly evolved from a call-based support model to a self-service based model. We have been on an exciting journey to create a service desk of the future, embracing automation and digital interaction. In achieving our goal, we have also embarked on a journey to transform our culture to engage our people, create more meaningful working experiences, enabling all to optimise performance and live into our aspirational goal.
What part of the awards process did you enjoy the most?
Presenting to the judging panel, was by far, the most enjoyable part of the process! We involved people from all levels of the organisation, from front line analysts, to senior leadership. All contributed to creating our message, preparing presentations, creating media and participating on panel discussions. The preparation sessions where fun and highly collaborative, and participants felt a great sense of pride in crafting the message on what makes our service desk stand out from the crowd. Involving front-line analysts provided an opportunity for individuals to showcase how they have helped transform our business and our culture over the last year. We also felt that our panel discussion approach was more meaningful to the judges as they got to hear front line accounts of the impact the transformation has had on their roles.
Gareth Harvey, L&D manager summed up what the team got out of the process, “it was fun, we enjoyed the full process from assigning the project team to shooting a fun video onsite. It allowed us to be creative and collaborate, we felt like we were living into our own values of ‘we win together’, everyone willingly put a lot of their own time into the process, there was a high level of commitment.”
“Entering the SDI awards actually helped our people develop skills in presenting, many got the opportunity to present as part of panel discussion and this contributed to their own development plans. What was most significant, was it enabled us to celebrate our business and our people. It helped reinforced a sense of pride that our people have for working in ANI. To be shortlist in the top 3 in the UK, was a very proud moment for all of us”.
– Stephen Lomas, Senior Manager ATSC
In the last 12 months, what has been the most successful initiative your team has implemented to help your business improve its performance?
Over the last year, Allstate’s Technology Support Centre (ATSC) had an aspirational goal to become a Service Desk of the future by transforming its customer interaction model. We have rapidly evolved from a call-based support model to a self-service based model. The overall objective was for users to be able to use a self-service portal 24/7 without ever needing to pick up the phone and call the ATSC. This would help us achieve our True North – freeing up capacity for those we serve. To meet this aspirational business goal, we needed to prepare and engage our people for serving technology issues for the future. It became clear that a cultural transformation was required which would centre on our people. After in-depth analysis of existing culture, barriers and successes involving all areas and levels within the business, a clear People Engagement Strategy was developed. We established values which where embedded into teams and tied to recognition systems to encourage employees to demonstrate and role model the behaviours. The journey began to transform our culture and engage our people in achieving our goal.
This initiative was different – we needed a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ as well as ‘peer-peer’ approach. The initial focus was targeted at grass roots, we established an employee led Transformation Champions group, comprised of 30 elected employee representatives from across the business. Their role was to engage peers, solve problems, advocate for change and promote a culture in which employee felt connected and engaged. Each team had a nominated champion who was tasked with bringing updates to team huddles, raising issues, deescalating conflict, solving problems and channeling updates to the forum and leaders group.
Evolving our business from a call-based support model to a self-service based model, has provided additional career development opportunities. The results of the business transformation within one year was incredible! There was a 75% improved user experience, from a cost savings point of view the new interaction model will generate approximately $3.5 million in savings from its launch. Transforming our culture has made noteworthy improvements in employee engagement.
What are your top 3 tips to make a service desk successful?
1. People are your key differentiator. We were fortunate to have implemented a Continuous Improvement management system, empowering people to drive business results, connect to meaningful purpose and lead from their seat.
2. Strategy is essential, and ensuring that people can connect to strategy and understand the purpose of their work.
“Don’t plan for tomorrow, you need to focus on the next 2 years, it is necessity to stay ahead of industry trends, contemporise support and serve for the future, we have been doing this through the development of chat bot, and automating a service desk of the future.”
-Stephen Lomas, Senior Operations Manager
3. Invest in Culture.
“It is important to create a strong culture, engage and listen to your people. We knew that we needed to evolve our culture and engage our people if we were to create a service desk of the future. Our ultimate goal was to create more meaningful working experiences, and evolve a culture that enables all to optimise performance and feel energised and connected to our ‘True North’.”
-Deirdre Doherty, Senior HR Manager
What one thing do you think really makes you stand out as a service organisation?
Our agility to move with the pace of change of technology and prepare a service desk of the future. The ATSC’s approach to solving this problem is different, we have a problem-solving mindset, employees directly solve problems to remove technology barriers for our customers. Our Continuous Improvement approach also empowers people to solve problems, make decisions and handle technology requests in a more digitised manner. We are creating a service desk of the future, we have grown our web chat and self-service support and digitising our service offering. We have embraced digital transformation with agility, we have done this while maintaining excellent customer satisfaction results.
How are you preparing to evolve your service desk over the next few years? Please share your most exciting plan with us!
The ATSC is preparing for an augmented workforce and the integration of Virtual Assistant and use of AI and bots. We are focusing our efforts on developing a flexible, agile workforce who have a learning mindset, are ‘tech savvy’ and have the cognitive ability to re-skill into new roles. We have developed a 2-year road map which effectively outlines a service desk in which all inbound contacts are handled via the service portal, as opposed to a phone call.
We have aspirational goals around this and in order to prepare we have targeted people, technology and process as enablers to achieve this vision.
* We have already created a universal analyst role. Work is underway on up-skilling our people to ‘analyst 2.0’ – providing competence for all employees to handle all skills and all inbound methods of contact (chats, self-ticket). We have also realised that technology will advance and we need to prepare our people for the future.
* We are working on an Incubator group – pilot underway to up-skill people on automation engineering. Currently 6 people from ATSC are involved, to pave the way for the ‘ATSC of future’ and working with automated bots.
* Technology – We are focused on eliminating high volume/low complex demand through the use of modernised technology solutions, we have developed business requirements documents and continuing to partner with the technology organisation to identify the most efficient & customer friendly way of engaging with future customers.
If you could choose any celebrity to work on your service desk, who would it be?
We’d like to have James Corden on our team! He emerged as one of the most popular TV show hosts in the world, and while it took him a long time to get there and he faced many hurdles, he set himself an aspirational goal and he never gave up on his dream.
“He’s fun, he embraces his true self, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he’s a good role model for just being you! We like that he makes it a priority to give back to the community, he donated some of his presenting fees to Comic Relief. He has also helped raise awareness for mental health and we have done a lot of work in the past year to promote good mental health at work.”
-Clare McLaughlin, CI Sustainability Coach.
What does it mean to your team to be a finalist in the ‘Best Service Desk’ category?
“I am proud of our team, this is a huge accolade to be recognised as a finalist, it reflects the hard work that our analysts do in solving technology issues for our clients. The award has also created a real buzz on the call floor, people are waiting in anticipation.”
-Rose Crampsie, Frontline Analyst
“Making the top three has generated a real sense of pride from front line to senior leadership level, it is a huge achievement, morale has improved in teams. It is also recognition for the exceptional commitment people make here towards creating a service desk of the future.”
-Aine McNamee, Level 2 Analyst.
What advice would you give to anyone entering the awards next year?
“Encourage participation from all levels of the organisation, try and get representation and perspectives from all aspects of the business, regardless of level. Providing this level of insight has helped us bring our authenticity to the process.”
-Stephen Lomas, Senior Manager, ATSC
What would you do to celebrate if your team won ‘Best Service Desk 2019’?
We have already celebrated the milestone that we achieved, in making the final three. However, if we win we will hold a celebratory event across our global sites and arrange a celebratory cake and time-off as recognition to reflect on our achievement. We will also celebrate as part of our summer BBQ family fun day, what a great way to help us celebrate our success with family and friends and help spread the word within our local community of the great work at we do in ANI. This will help us further celebrate that we are the employer of choice within the region, and how we are creating fantastic career opportunities for people!