In case you don’t know, this is the wonderfully charismatic Nev Wilshere. Nev is the CEO of a company called Save Britain Money (http://www.savebritainmoney.co.uk/index.html). According to their website, the company ‘provide a range of money saving services to the British public including; energy efficiency surveys and installation, renewable energy advice, pensions, mortgage reviews, online and telephone fuel switching.’ The business operates two contact centres in Wales – contact centres that have recently been the subject of a BBC3 TV documentary (which is now being shown on BBC1).
If you have not seen the programme, whilst not the most cultured of viewing, it is extremely entertaining (here is the link to one of the episodes as a taster – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbQM5nfhcWk). As someone who has worked in and around the customer service industry for the majority of my career, there are elements of it that make me rather uncomfortable. Indeed the nature of the way the company conducts its business does not necessarily align with my own values.
However (there is always one of those), the legitimacy of the organisation is not the purpose of this blog post. The reason why I was compelled to watch the programme, and why I have become an admirer of Nev, is for a completely different reason. One thing that no-one who has watched it can deny, is that Nev has very strong beliefs. The strongest belief of all perhaps, is that happy people are more productive. ‘Happy people sell’ has become Nev’s catchphrase, and even writing this, I can feel myself saying it in his distinctive Welsh accent.
Nev and his team have a tremendous amount of fun. On watching the programme, what they get up to may not be to everyone’s taste – that is why we do not work there. You would not work for the company if you did not buy into their culture. But their culture undeniably has seen a group of young people in an economically deprived part of the UK earn a decent living whilst having a lot of fun. I was almost envious watching the goings on. I have never worked anywhere that appears to have as much fun as they do! That is why there is absolute truth to the saying that ‘happy people sell’ – in fact happy people will do better at almost anything. And that is the real purpose of this blog post.
What does it feel like when you walk into a shop and the shop assistant looks at you with a genuine smile on their face. How does it feel if the person you are interacting with is clearly not happy? Happiness in the work environment is the result of a number of things – some of which I will go in to in a second. Happiness in the work environment will have the ultimate effect of delivering better customer experiences. Not every business is led by a Nev Wilshire – maybe that is a good thing!! What that does mean is that we cannot all rely on being led by someone who inherently understands the need to have fun in the working environment. It is a trait that other leaders could look to Nev for (although they might want to tone it down just a little!!).
Have you ever discussed the ‘work life balance’ at work or at home? Have you had heated debates with your partner about spending too much time at work? Are you expected to devote too much time on work, and not enough time on just living? Even if you have a fantastic fun boss like Nev, if you are not able to effectively balance your work with your personal life, something will suffer. Those effected by that suffering are likely to be your family, your colleagues, or the customers you serve.
Although we tend to talk about the work life balance a lot, we rarely do enough to either understand how balanced we are, or indeed act on the things that cause imbalance. In my work, I come across a lot of business leaders who instinctively understand the importance of people. In their customer experience or customer service related roles, a significant portion of their work revolves around ensuring their people are engaged and happy.
A few years ago, I had the fortune to meet one of the best exponents of this. Stefan Osthaus was at the time a senior leader for a global business. With teams of people all over the world, it was critical that he was able to have happy and effective colleagues whose work benefitted from having a good LIFE BALANCE. Stefan believes that one’s life comprises a number of areas: you as a person, your relationship, your family, your friends, and your work. It is because of his practical ‘hands on’ experiences that Stefan has decided to make a career out of helping others to do the same. This week, he has launched a brand new business called mybalance.net (https://www.mybalance.net/) – a business that is dedicated to helping everyone and anyone – individuals to organisations – better understand their LIFE BALANCE, and the actions that can be taken to improve the balance. You can watch a short video about mybalance here:
Users of mybalance.net complete a survey. The survey has been developed with leading scientists from around the world. It will give you a full report with detailed Life Balance scores for five main areas of your life as well as tell you where to focus to improve your Life Balance. It is very interesting, and instantly makes you challenge what you could do to make your life more balanced and as a result happier. I completed the survey, or test, as an individual, but wouldn’t it be great if your company encouraged you to do it – as part of a plan to ensure that all employees know what they could do to have a better life balance?
To achieve Life Balance, all areas of your life have to provide energy, not consume it! — this is why Life Balance matters. Don’t settle for one area of your life eating the energy the others create for you. Have them all contribute energy and happiness! Stefan Osthaus, September 2013
A better life balance cannot guarantee that you will be happier, but it will have a huge effect on enabling happiness. Happier people enjoy every aspect of their lives more. Happier people at home have a more content home life. Happier people at work are more effective at doing what they do – it just makes sense.
So if you want to know whether or not you could/should improve your life balance, have a look at https://www.mybalance.net/ now. Show it to your HR or People director. Also get your bosses to watch the Call Centre – and ask them why they are not as much fun as Nev!
Ian, great post – interesting to compare this to the Zappos culture – so they have the same amount of fun (probably more) AND a far more positive overall impact. You don’t see anyone screwing up their faces at a customer over the phone, or just ‘trying whatever sales patter I think will work on this poor unsuspecting mug’ – their fun comes from the fact that they are genuinely helping and caring for customers. It is however likely that at 2%ish margin in the Zappos world – Nev is happier with his profits – but then I suspect that really Nev just wants to make money – and have fun in the office (does he care about his customers?). I think he realises that the only way to motivate people to this style of selling is to make it all a lot of fun to detract from the reality of what they are selling. This is not a stable foundation and therefore to me, not the poster boy for ‘happy = better performance’. I do think he’s got the mark of his people though and knows how to push them. I do think that this is probably a ‘very good way’ to sell what he’s selling (for a profit based motive) – but then I don’t believe profit should be the motive of a business 🙂
Many thanks for your kind words Martin. I do agree that this business is not the ‘poster boy’ for customer experience. However, should he ever want to combine his love for his own people with greater empathy for the customers he serves, I am sure we could help him!!