Q&A: Anton Manley, HEROtsc
Earlier this year, HEROtsc’s Anton Manley was acclaimed as Senior Manager of the Year at the prestigious European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards, beating out over 100 candidates. We caught up with Anton to discover some of the secrets behind his success – and how he’s working to ensure every day sees a new personal best…
Outsource: Anton, congratulations on your success. Did you feel confident prior to the announcement or did your triumph come as a surprise?
Anton Manley: I was always hopeful, but it was actually great just to be nominated in a hotly contested category. I felt very honoured to be shortlisted and to be able to rub shoulders with the industry’s leading players.
O: The Awards judges said they were “blown away by the sheer breadth of improvements directly driven” by you – can you give Outsource readers an idea of some of these improvements and how they’ve improved operations at HEROtsc?
AM: The team and I really have been busy over the last year working under some simple philosophies over many streams. Our people retention and financial performance have significantly improved. Our employee engagement has also improved dramatically in the last 12-18 months and is now achieving record results. This has been the culmination of a clear people plan and hard work with my team on devising and deploying with the aim of making HEROtsc a great place to work. Overall customer satisfaction and feedback has also been driven up to deliver the best-ever results, on the back of our ethos that happy people make happy customers.
O: The judges also highlighted your “passion for making small changes that make a big difference” which they said “has led to simply breathtaking results”. Can you expand on that to give us a bit more of an insight into your professional philosophy – and perhaps give our readers an idea of how to spot the correct “small changes that make a big difference”?
AM: When you are managing people at every level on a day-to-day basis, I firmly believe it is imperative that they are motivated and coached effectively and continuously. In a people-focussed environment, it’s the small things that manifest themselves in day-to-day operations. We have regular and innovative ‘praise days’ which help to foster a positive culture, of which I’m extremely proud.
I launched Anton’s Apprentice which gives a genuine opportunity to our people to make a difference and indeed if they can demonstrate the added value they give through unique projects, they can potentially create a new career opportunity for themselves. We continually engage with our people and ensure that we communicate clearly back to them using as many forums as we can. We also recognise the need for flexible working by offering our people ‘duvet days’ – and doing these things in an open and honest way gives you a real platform to work together as a team. That’s when you see people giving that bit extra back as they really feel valued as an individual. We are continually launching new initiatives and measuring the impact they have on morale and engagement.
O: What do you think have been the biggest changes in the call centre space during your time in the business and how have you adapted to overcome any challenges arising?
AM: There are many – technology being one that has really evolved at a rapid pace. However, for me, I am delighted to say it’s the realisation that people are massively important and that truly happy people equate to happy customers. This is not just a numbers game. It is crucial that time is invested in recruiting, coaching and developing everybody at all levels. If anyone doesn’t agree, I’d ask them to run the business they are in with no people for the next 30 days. It involves truly engaging with our people creating a career path that allows them the opportunity to progress within our industry.
It’s also about recognising the importance of attracting the right pedigree of people, and gaining enough feedback to ensure you are delivering for them. You need to keep things fresh and ensure that you are creating an environment of which people want to be a part.
O: On the subject of challenges: can you give us some insights into your talent management and motivational strategies at present and how – if – these have been impacted by the worsening economic picture globally?
AM: I have rolled out initiatives designed to nurture talent, such as Anton’s Apprentice. Top advisers also have the opportunity to progress through the company’s highly successful management university and deputy Team Leader programme. Twenty-eight people in the past year on one of our sites alone have been internally promoted having gone through the various developmental opportunities we offer.
A lot of new talent is emerging in the industry due to the tough economic times we are seeing, and we’ve attracted considerable talent that would not previously have gravitated towards the call centre world, or have seen it as an attractive and stimulating career option. As a result of our commitment to developing that talent, we’ve succeeded in strengthening the business – and, I’m proud to say, the HEROtsc reputation.
O: What are your objectives for the next 12 months – how do you intend to keep innovating and improving professionally?
AM: Through a defined strategy of continuous improvement. As a company, HEROtsc invested months in the development of our ground-breaking SMART Series, which has been designed to strengthen relationships with clients and impact on their bottom line through the use of sophisticated data analysis and intelligent strategic planning. Piloted at our Falkirk headquarters, the bespoke products are being rolled out to our other eight sites.
We have researched and used our experience in the market to understand what our clients need today and to anticipate their needs for tomorrow. As a result of this research we have identified that our clients are looking for differentiated customer experience, customer advocacy, increased customer value and effectively managed costs. This innovation and intelligence will be the cornerstone of everything we do as a team in the coming year. It’s core to our business. Watch this space!
O: Finally: what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
AM: I’ll keep it simple – as a fresh-faced 21-year-old just starting my career after coming out of university, a mentor advised me to do my “personal best” every single day. I’ve never forgotten those words of wisdom. It’s a value I strive to instil in each and every member of the team on a daily basis and one that has become a way of life for me. I can’t do any better than my personal best!