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Inside ACCE: Puget Sound Energy Site Tour Recap

Today, more than 500 ACCE attendees had the opportunity to tour call centers all around the Seattle area.  We had groups tour Starbucks, Alaska Airlines, and Virginia Mason to name a few.  I personally had the privilege of touring the Puget Sound Energy site.

Just to give a little background, here are some quick facts about the Puget Sound Energy:

Location: Bellevue, Washington
# Employees: 350 (40 remote)
Facility: 2 buildings, 75,000 square feet
Hours of Operation: 24 x7; core hours 7:30-6:30pm
Number of Calls: 2,000,000 handled by live agents each month
Emails Handled: 70,000 per month

We toured many different parts of the facility, including:

Special projects: The teamwork and energy were infectious!

Billing: I was fascinated by how efficient their machinery was.  They have a machine that opens more than 12,000 envelopes every day (that would take at least 4-5 additional full-time employees).  They also have another machine that processes around 25,000 payments on a daily basis.  Both machines were mind-boggling to watch in action!

Training room: The (fairly large) room was abuzz with new agents.

Call center:  A call queue and up-to-the-minute metrics were displayed on a large flat screen TV.  Each agent had a cubicle decorated to reflect their individual personality, and agents were dressed casually.

Workforce management team: Lean and mean.  The WFM team consisted of 2 resource management staff.

Call monitoring/QA: I thought this was one of the most interesting stops on the tour.  We got to meet the remote employee supervisor.  She makes monthly (unannounced) visits to her 40 remote agents, giving them coaching and feedback on a random selection of their recorded calls.  In order to work from home, agents must have been a customer service representative for at least one year, and they must pass a 90 day testing and assessment period.

While I was fascinated and amazed by the billing department, and really enjoyed learning more about Puget Sound Energy's QA efforts, one of the things that most impressed me about this contact center was their focus on health and wellness and employee morale.

All throughout the building were inspirational quotes, motivational photos and bulletin boards touting agent and call center accomplishments.   It was impressive and refreshing to see a call center that truly cared about and invested in the morale of its agents.

Each month, Puget Sound recognizes an employee, supervisor, and safety professional of the month on a bulletin board that also displays contact center stats and achievements.  Additionally, the contact center has a “Kudos Board” that is completely employee driven.  Employees can share customer service success stories, recognize their peers for great work, or acknowledge their bosses and supervisors.  The board was filled to the brim!Puget Sound also recognizes hard working agents with FRED (Friendly, Resourceful, Enthusiastic, Dependable) Awards.

While none of those efforts take a significant monetary investment, they can go a long way in improving employee morale, which as a result lowers turnover, and training costs.

Beyond their general employee morale efforts, Puget Sound Energy places a strong emphasis on the overall health and well-being of their employees.  On site there’s a gym and showers, and there are also quiet rooms devoted to napping or reading during breaks.  Vending machines are stocked with healthy snacks, ice water is readily available, and a local Apple vendor delivers fresh fruit to the office every Monday.

Beginning in 2010, Puget Sound Energy began a company-wide health and wellness initiative that integrated health and wellness into overall employee training.  Other components of the program include a biggest loser challenge (more than 100 employees have participated to-date), and partnership with the Heart Association in which 48% of employees participated in National Walking Day. During the first year of the new health and wellness program, the center saw a 10% decrease in absenteeism (in turn saving the company money).  In my opinion, that kind of payoff is more than worth the effort involved.

Overall, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the center from several differnt perspectives was fun, interesting, and insightful.

Did you go on one of the site tours?  What insights or lessons did you take away?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.