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Article : 4life Direct Poland's Francois Marais on Contact Center Awards

What made you enter the 2013 awards in the first place?
As a result of winning Gold the previous year we were given the opportunity of re-entering this year.
We decided to re-enter as we felt that the previous year’s submission was that good and a fantastic example of how a successful Direct Marketing Sales Campaign can become a well-recognised, multi-national organisation employing more than 400 staff internationally. In addition, so good where the results that we expanded the same model to other countries.

What were you hoping to achieve in the process? Was it recognition? Benchmarking? Something else or a combination of things?
Our motive for entering was to be recognised within the market we operate as a credible, professional and successful company, not only amongst our peers but also within the industry we operate. In addition, we recognise the benefits and the motivation for staff by entering and winning these awards.

When you were invited to be a finalist, what was your reaction and how did you share this with your co-workers?
We were delighted to be invited again as a finalist and immediately notified our staff and management via emails and sms text. The feedback was overwhelming and made us feel a tremendous sense of teamwork. The entire company supported us and rallied behind this which as you can imagine, created a great sense of teamwork.

You were asked to prepare a presentation, how did you decide what to include and what to share?
It was important to ensure we could substantiate the results and therefore important to include the Key Metrics, such as, Cost per lead, Productivity (Call time), Conversion, Call Quality score, Income, Expenses and ultimately ROI. We felt it wasn’t enough to just stand in front of an audience and talk about how successful it was, but rather to substantiate the success through comparing the results of our campaign with similar campaigns we ran in our other group companies in other countries. So we benchmarked the other countries success with the campaign and the results were very impressive.
Thereafter, we wanted to share the non-negotiables when launching a campaign and the learnings from that. We felt that it important to share what was important to us to make a campaign, or which made this campaign, successful, in other words the key success factors.
And finally, since we launched this in a foreign country, it was important for us to bring in the national pride, after all it was our staff’s significant contribution which really made this a success.

Can you share with our readers a couple of ideas you presented at the conference and how you apply those in your center?

  • Testing - a key issue with any Marketing Campaign. Very seldom do you know really what works until you try and then when you do try, don’t spend your entire budget on it. Start small, test, review your test results and if positive, then spend more and grow sustainably. Sounds simple, but too often people go too big too soon. We test every campaign first before committing more budget to it. General rule of thumb is use 10% of your marketing budget for testing.
  • Invest in Systems: you can change marketing plans, HR policies, etc. but systems are expensive and difficult to change once you’re up and running. Develop the wrong system, which either does not work or is not scalable, and you will spend most of your time trying to "fix" rather than trying to grow your business. It was critical for us to find the right IT partner, to ensure that we have the right system and solution for the business and then to spend a lot of time in the development phase. Use this time properly because once you’re up and running you will have a lot less time available to spec systems. Now that the business is up and running, we are incredibly grateful to the people and the time spent in the beginning. We decided to use an IT Partner whom we have worked with for more than 20 years.
  • Measurements and Flexibility: Be Passionate about metrics and reviewing them as often as possible. Make sure you set the correct metrics and the watch these closely and then be prepared to be flexible if the results are not as you had expected. Making minor changes can make a big difference, so be flexible and open to changes. Setting up a new campaign in a different country forced us to be flexible. Although there were many strategies and ideas we brought over from other countries where we ran very successful sales campaigns, the unknown factor was high and we had to be flexible right up front as you cannot simply copy and paste from one country to another, or even from one campaign to another. The basics remain the same, but there are differences. You will end up spending 80% of your time trying to perfect these.
  • Build a reputation: not just aimed at consumers, but also at staff. We found that the better the reputation the better the quality of candidate who applies for a position. The better your staff, the better and more professional the customers are treated and therefore better campaign results.
  • Recruit the right attitude: You can train the skill. We use our sales team as the nursery ground for other positions and promote within whenever we can. Our sales centre makes up 60% of the staff compliment. We find that if the candidate has the right attitude and fits into the company culture and company values, then we recruit. The sales may not be the department which he/she ends up in, but it is a great training ground for other departments.

How did you feel about sharing with your peers – including those competing against you?
On all the Contact Centre Conferences that I have been to, I have had the strong feeling that no matter what industry you are in, or whether you are in direct competition to another company, everyone was willing to share openly and that this was done for the benefit of the industry. It is also important to realise that ideas are easy to pick up, however it is the application of those ideas which makes the difference between success and failure. I think one would be naïve to think that an idea from another company could remove their competitive advantage because a lot has to go into developing and implementing an idea before it can become a success.

How would you describe the value of the conference to someone who has never been before – especially someone coming just to hear best practices?
The value of the conference is that the presenter’s motive is to win an award. They have entered into a competition and therefore want to present their best case. Not only does this ensure for some spectacular presentations, but you are also guaranteed to get very good and useful information and tips… because these presenters are competition entries so they want to use the opportunity to present at their best. This is far better than sitting through a manufactured presentation conference where presenters tell you about a concept, rather than selling you the concept.

How did you feel before and after presenting?
I felt rather nervous before presenting, which is normal, but also confident as I knew we had a good submission. But afterwards, I felt exhilarated because you realise that setting your mind to it shows that it is achievable and it is also nice to get positive comments from your peers.

What do you think makes this award process valuable?
The process has two main benefits. For a company it allows the individuals who enter the award to critical assess their nomination and their call centre and benchmark it with other countries. It stretches the individual to think and document their successes and challenges. The second benefit is the learning you get from listening to other companies present and on every occasion you walk away with something new which you believe could be worth testing in your own company. The entire process is a fantastic, positive learning experience.

How would you describe the gala dinner?
The gala dinner is an exhilarating affair that gives you that "I’m a movie star" experience with red carpets, champagne and camera interviews. It is very well organised and special attention is given to the venue which always has some special significance. Most impressive is the delight expressed by the winners and the fun we have after the awards at the party.

As a GOLD winner, how did you feel being called on stage to receive your award?
Very special, not only are you recognised amongst your colleagues but also amongst your peers and competing companies. To be recognised in front of the industry gives you that added extra recognition and judging by the feedback we receive from our other group companies, our shareholders and staff and the local industry, it is most certainly worth our while.

How did you celebrate your win at your company?
Apart from announcing that we won awards to the shareholders, and board, we also made a big announcement at our monthly staff meeting. We celebrated by handing out the awards again and then made large posters and hung them up on the walls in recognition of the award. For our staff this is especially significant as we build an incentive into the attendance of the award.

How has entering and winning this award changed your company and motivation?
For us it was the personal growth. To see how managers embraced the process, were challenged with the submissions and personally developed through the entire process was an incredible experience. Winning gold, or even winning any of the other medals, gave the entire process meaning and made the hard work satisfying. The rest of the team now look forward to the next year to see whether they too can compete and as a result this raises moral and motivation in the our company.

Now you are eligible to compete against the Best in the World in Las Vegas – how do you feel about that and how are you planning for this?
We feel very excited to have the opportunity of presenting and competing once again against the best in the world. What an honour! As a start we are refining our presentations and going through regular practice sessions to ensure that we are super professional when we go up on stage in Vegas.

Any final comments you would like to share about the whole process?
I felt that the Contact Centre Awards is a brilliant opportunity for companies, managers and staff to develop themselves, learn from others, network and build up relationships with other companies whom they can learn from. In addition, we have used it as a very valuable internal incentive tool where staff who achieves certain goals is awarded the opportunity to go to the Contact Centre Conference. The Contact Centre Conference is well run and we particular enjoy the process of going through regional awards and then the international awards as this allows for the opportunity to meet peer companies in your region and internationally.

You and your company can learn from industry leaders on how to increase performance and productivity, avoid HR challenges, improve customer service and much more. Don't miss out on this amazing learning and networking opportunity! Visit for conferences.  For more information on how you can take part in this prestigious and sought after awards program for the best of the best in the industry visit

About 4Life Direct:
Company LogoEstablished in 2008 4Life Direct is a leading international financial services company specialising in making simple, easy-to-understand and affordable life insurance products accessible to the European market via direct-to-consumer strategies. It is represented in Poland, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United Kingdom and is recognized as the market leader in the field of direct selling.
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About 4life Direct Poland:
Company LogoEstablished in 2008 4Life Direct is a leading international financial services company specialising in making simple, easy-to-understand and affordable life insurance products accessible to the European market via direct-to-consumer strategies. It is represented in Poland, Hungary and the United Kingdom and is recognized as the market leader in the field of direct selling.
Company RSS Feed   Company Profile Page

Today's Tip of the Day - Beware Of Techno Babble & Jargon

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