Karsten Wulf: Strategic personnel developments in the customer care sector

The dividing line between success and failure in business often lies in individual companies cultivating relationships with their customers. To maximize this effect, sectors such as insurance, banking, telecommunications and mail or­­der companies therefore outsourced their personnel-intensive customer relations activities to service providers in the cus­­tomer care sector early on, enabling them to concentrate on their core business.


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The customer care sector is by its very nature a personnel-intensive sector of the economy. Its employees bear great responsibility with each customer contact. The demands are high – a fast learn­­ing curve, good communication skills, stamina and flexibility, a pronounced service mentality, good working habits, a certain joie de vivre, goal-orientation, struc­­tured working methods, a confident manner and of course, the ability to project enthusiasm on the telephone – all these are vital factors in B2C management. Leading companies in the cus­­tomer care sector such as the buw company group therefore place much im­­portance on talent management and dis­­tinct employee motivation.
Since its formation in 1993 the buw company group has continued to ex­­pand and is succeeding in implementing very demanding customer manage­­ment so­­lutions with over 3,500 permanent em­­­­ployees in Osnabrück, Münster, Halle (Saale), Schwe­­rin, Leipzig und Pécs in Hungary. These solutions cover customer acquisition (busi­­ness and private), in­­creasing the loyalty of existing customers within the value chain, and preventing reductions in customer num­­bers. Due to intensive, extended pro­­jects, the buw company group is continuing to expand its team and has thus become one of the biggest employers in Halle and the surrounding region with over 1,000 em­­ployees and one of the most successful company relocations of re­­cent years.

Clients such as BMW, RWE, Vo­­da­­fone, Arcor, IBM, Miele and debitel have placed their confidence in the Osna­brück-based customer management service provi­­d­­er buw, which has won several awards. These include the Top Job Seal, which the company has just won for being one of the 100 best employers in the medium-sized sector in the category “Cul­ture and Com­mu­­nica­tion”, the Special Prize for the best career internet home­­page www.buw.de/karriere and the fifth place overall of 212 participating companies is evidence of the quality of the service in the six fields of business from a neutral side as well.

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Company Goals
Apart from continual and permanent 20 to 30-per-cent annual growth, buw also pursues the goal of offering employees secure and attractive jobs with a future while retaining quality. As a quality and innovative leader, buw also plans to position itself as the best em­­ployer in the sector over the next few years. Furthermore, buw supports each region of the locations as part of its entrepreneurial responsibility through such activities as sports sponsoring, for example of the womens’ basketball players at the “Lions Hal­le” and the Halle triathlon and the Central German company marathon.
In addition, buw sponsors the Thalia Theater in Halle and is always glad to attend special state and city campaigns such as the “We Get Up Earlier!” campaign in Saxony-Anhalt.

The orientation of personnel work
As part of the growth strategy, personnel work is a crucial success factor in which different recruitment methods, struc­­tured personnel development and professional personnel man­agement are particularly important. The following points demonstrate a selection of daily, employee-oriented personnel tasks:

• Personnel selection takes place at a multi-stage assessment centre with theoretical and practical parts. There are also internal, target group-specific personnel development programmes at buw for customer relations employees, team leaders and managers. The effectiveness of buw’s training courses and personnel selection was confirmed in an evaluative study by the Uni­versity of Münster.
• To maintain team spirit, team budgets are used to hold regular parties or regular pub evenings and celebrate joint successes, and the employee ma­­gazine “flurfunk” contains articles by employees informing other employees about special events.
• To prevent health-related stress, a ho­­listic company health management system (BGM) has been introduced. In this system, training courses for the right voice level et cetera play an important role for jobs in which em­­ployees are required to speak to cus­­tomers a lot, and free drinks are made such available at tea bars to ease the strain on employees’ voice. Meas­­ures for reducing unilateral stress such as company soccer or volleyball teams or company massages are also im­­portant.


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Long-term-oriented personnel work is just as important for long-term employee loyalty as is the willingness to get to know job applicants closely before making the appointment decision or giving new employees time to become acquainted with complex tasks after gaining new qualifications.
As a rule, job applicants from Halle have very heterogeneous educational backgrounds so that those making lateral career moves in the industry can also be trained and qualified for management positions.
At the same time, care is taken to en­­sure that needs-based, on-the-job train­­ing is given which is inline with regular performance reports and strategy inter­­views on a continual basis.

Since we established a presence in East­ern Germany, employees from Hal­­le have been notable for their above-average commitment and particular company loyalty, which is reflected by high participation rates in employee surveys, for example.
For long-term employee loyalty as displayed by this commitment, employees are shown various possible internal ca­­reers paths. Systematic continued educational programmes or “High Po­­ten­­tials Programmes” are used for vertical career paths to prepare employees for higher positions. With horizontal qualifications they create greater flexibility through the acquisition of multiple skills, thereby in turn creating greater job security.

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Due to the great interest in continued education on the part of employees, in­­ternal career paths are used to a great extent. Employees initially hired for cus­­tomer relations positions can be­­come team leaders. 50 per cent of team leaders have been recruited from customer relations positions. Other prospects materialize by team leaders being in­­tro­­duced to project lead­­er positions as future management staff.

Using many of the available skills the employees possess and taking advantage of their high levels of commitment and efforts for the company poses continual challenges for personnel management while, at the same time, providing incentive to further effort.

 

Wulf_einzel_I-15The author was born in 1971 and stu­­­died business management at the Uni­­versity of Osnabrück. In 1993 he and his business partner, Jens Bormann, formed the first company of the buw company group. Wulf is a specialist in information technology, finance, personnel and lo­­ca­­tion establish­­ment. In 2007 he was elected deputy na­­tional chairman in the presidium of the BJU (Association of Young Entrepreneurs).