Meet the CCP Ambassadors

This page is dedicated to our team of fabulous CCP Ambassadors.

CCP relies on the support of our ambassadors to act as role models for the sector, both internally and externally, and champion contact centre careers.

Each ambassador is personally invited because of their passion and commitment to making a difference and raising the profile of the sector.

Chris Lewin, Social Media, LNER

My first job after leaving school was with UK Debt & Legal Services in North Tyneside which is where my customer service career began. This opportunity helped me to mature quickly as it taught me the importance of customer service and confidentiality. These valuable lessons have helped me throughout my career which includes roles with Officers Club, Morrisons and Thomas Cook before landing my role at Virgin Trains East Coast in 2016.

My role as Customer Service Advisor at Virgin Trains East Coast (now LNER) was incredibly exciting. I was one of the first training groups to start as they opened their new contact centre in Newcastle.

We completed a 6-week training program learning about life in the railway, and oh boy, it is a big industry to learn! We learned everything from the East Coast Mainline route, the policies, complaints, enquiries, and the systems. It became an ever-growing contact centre with customer service, assisted travel, group sales and web support functions all eventually under one roof. I poured my heart and soul into the training. The training and the eventual ‘go live’ was very daunting for some people and caused them to have anxiety, but for me it was a buzz of excitement and rush of adrenaline. I was the first colleague to be signed off from quality checks with 100% approvals meaning my emails no longer needed to be screened before going directly to the customers.

My duties varied from telephony and written correspondence from customers with delay repay claims, lost property, complaints, assisted travel and day to day enquiries. I learnt how to be multi-skilled and knowledgeable about all aspects of the railway whilst confidently switching from one system to another within seconds to support customers in a timely manner.

After a few weeks of going live with the customer services line, I was given the opportunity to develop my skills into a sales role. The company were putting together a dedicated team to receive group sales calls which required additional security measures in line with GDPR and payment terminals. Although this was a sales role, it wasn’t about making the most money, it was about finding the best available fare for customers wishing to travel along the East Coast mainline and connecting journeys. After 12 months I was promoted to Team Leader where I managed a team of 26 Advisors.

Following my appointment to Team Leader, I faced another challenge which was to see our web support department be brought in house. Once again, I was at the forefront of this startup and the first Team Leader to train in the new process and systems. I was then able to support our training and quality team to coach and support colleagues through training and support, particularly to those who needed a little extra help in building their confidence to use the new service.

Although, there was the good there was also the not so good parts of the job such as absence management, performance reviews and disciplinaries. These are difficult to do because you do become attached to your team, but I treat the company as if it was my own business and look at what is the right thing to do for our colleagues and customers. I am always fully supported by the HR department and this is part and parcel of being a leader.

In February 2020, I was offered the opportunity to apply for Social Media at LNER. I had covered our social media channels throughout my time with VTEC/LNER, another skillset I was proud to have gained. I was successful in my role and was very sad to leave our contact centre, but I’ve built up some great relationships that will help me in my next venture.

Social Media is certainly a fast-paced role. Customers will tend to go to social media as their first point of contact for enquiries/complaint for a quick response. I need to deal with multiple conversations at any one time whilst updating our Twitter feed with the latest travel updates to keep customers informed across the East Coast Mainline from Aberdeen/Inverness to London Kings Cross.

My advice to anyone considering a career in a contact centre is to research the company you are applying to. Look at the various opportunities they have, not necessarily that match a skillset you have, but what you don’t have. If you are fully informed you know what you can aim towards – the result will always be about the customer.

There’s no specific demographic person working in a contact centre. At LNER the youngest person was 16 and the oldest person 60+. There are people from all backgrounds and walks of life, from ex-military, some with master’s degrees and those who didn’t go onto further education. What is amazing is that your background does not matter, it’s about your ability to do the best for the customer.

Those still in education can feel pressured into further education. It would be great for schools to start looking at the opportunities out there for those who do not want to go to Sixth Form or University. In the North East we have key locations for contact centre’s such as Balliol/Quorum and Cobalt Park, Team Valley, Doxford Park and Newcastle City Centre all which have key transport links to get to and from.

When I worked at Morrisons, I never understood people who said they gained friends for life, that wasn’t until I went to work for LNER, and as cringeworthy that may sound, it genuinely was such a great feeling to be part of the team where your ideas and contributions are listened to.

Ali Devine, Contact Centre Development Manager, Leeds Building Society

Hi, I’m Ali Devine, Contact Centre Development Manager at Leeds Building Society, based at their North Tyneside site. My career started in financial services 35 years ago when I joined Eagle Star Insurance. I’ve since built a successful career around my two daughters and 3 grandchildren who keep me extremely busy in my spare time.

My current role is Contact Centre Development Manager for Leeds Building Society, based at their North Tyneside contact centre. My role includes responsibility for the onboarding and development of all our contact centre colleagues, ensuring they are supported and reach their maximum potential throughout their Leeds Building Society Career Pathway.

Originally it was the hours that attracted me to the sector. I’d just had my first daughter Sophie and returned from maternity leave on a full-time basis. When I went for the for the first interview, I got an amazing feel about the company, I loved how family orientated they were and got such a positive vibe. My second interview was with the Contact Centre Manager who was setting up a new department. She was so inspirational and enthusiastic about the challenges and opportunities ahead and I was sold! For me, the organization must be a good fit first, and then the role.

I’ve worked in many roles during my contact centre career including HR, training, Project Management and Customer Services Manager. The contact centre sector is fast paced with lots of variation. All of this experience has presented many opportunities for me to constantly challenge myself and make a difference. The thing I enjoy most about working in a contact centre is the people, both colleagues and customers.

At Leeds Building Society we truly live our values and it shows in how our colleagues support each other. We’re 100 miles down the road from head office but you would think we’re in the same building. Our colleagues are our family and our customers are our members.

We have a Career Pathway with an entry level as you don’t need previous contact centre experience. As you move through the pathway and become competent, you progress to your next level. You then have choices as to what you would like to specialize in. All essential study is funded by the Society to ensure colleagues can progress.

Emerging technologies will massively impact both colleagues and customers lives in the future. Already we’re changing the way we interact using technology to provide blended learning approaches, exploring gamification and robotic processes. As technology advances we can all have more flexibility as to when we do things through self-service. The contact centre will move closer to be a centre of excellence with more complex and technical queries in more specialist areas.

My advice to anyone considering a career in a contact centre would be to do your research. Find out about the company and make sure their values are aligned to your own. Find out what a typical day will be like. Think about your own personal skills, likes and dislikes and make sure it matches. And think big as contact centres offer great training and career progression.

Tabitha Woodhouse, Sales Advisor, Sage UK Ltd

I am 28 years old and currently living in Newcastle, I was raised in Germany from being about 2 years old as I come from an Artillery family. I moved back to the UK when I was 15 years old and myself. Mum, Dad, brother and sister are really close as we have no other family here. I live with my fiancée Dean and we are getting married next August. When I left high school, I went to college as I couldn’t decide what I really wanted to do after injuring my knee a few years prior and being unable to attend Sandhurst College like I had always planned to do. I changed my goals and decided maybe I would go and study Law, this was a goal I was never really committed to as it never felt quite right.

I began my career in sales at BT when I was 18 and finished college. Initially I was attracted by the idea of working for a bigger company and having job security until I decided on what I wanted to focus on as my main career. I quickly found that I was very good in sales and quickly rose to be one of the top performers and I was earning a more comfortable living than I thought could be possible. I grew in confidence speaking to a plethora of different people every day and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

I love helping our customers grow their businesses and giving them a great service. I take pride in doing the best possible job I can and knowing I have had a hand in helping our customers succeed. I really enjoy having different conversations throughout the day, being able to give that human touch to the interaction for the customer and make it memorable for them, while ensuring they feel confident in decisions, they are making that affect their businesses. I love working with a great variety of different people in the office and its fascinating seeing all the different backgrounds my colleagues come from and the life experience they bring to the role.

We have quite a few different career paths, we really have a wealth of areas that interest all our different colleagues. I personally have been afforded a lot of different opportunities to develop and hone my skillset and find what it is I am really good at, the best thing is you really get to take We have quite a few different career paths, we really have a wealth of areas that interest all our different colleagues. I personally have been afforded a lot of different opportunities to develop and hone my skillset and find what it is I am really good at, the best thing is you really get to take control of your own career and are given the room to grow and develop. Thanks to the support I have received I am focused and know exactly where I am heading in my career.

I have had a complete mindset change I genuinely never thought I would work in an office as my main career, once I realized my potential and tapped into the various support systems I quickly progressed and became the Sales Performance coach along with another colleague covering a whole sales area. I have worked on projects in other departments and built fantastic relationships with colleagues I never would have crossed paths within my day to day role.

I was nominated by my colleagues for People Development Hero at the 2017 North East Contact Centre Awards and Young Employee of the Year at the 2018 North East Employee Awards and won both. I have never been prouder to have all my achievements with Sage showcased and recognized in the presence of other great colleagues from different businesses, hearing some of their achievements and knowing what Sage had supported me in achieving had topped that was amazing!

The advice I wish I had been given 10 years ago is be confident, be ambitious and be curious you will learn something new every single day! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we are all working for the same goals and you will be surrounded by colleagues who want to see you succeed.

Richard McCarthy, Change Manager within Customer Success at Sage UK

I’m currently residing in the North East however I’m originally from Sydney, Australia. With determination and hard work, I had completed a bachelor’s double-degree in Marketing, Public Relations and Behavioural Science in Sydney. Prior to moving over to the UK permanently, I had travelled across Europe for over two months with my partner which has contributed to the passion of travel that I still uphold today. It was always going to be a challenge to move from sunny Sydney to the other side of the world, however I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far. In the past I’ve worked for smaller scale organisations in comparison to my current employer at Sage. However, I’ve enjoyed the experience and work that was involved; therefore, Sage is the first contact centre that I’ve been a part of.

First and foremost, the people are fantastic to work with throughout each role I have had at Sage. This is testament to the amount of support that everyone offers to one another which underpins the focus on colleague success in addition to customer success. I enjoy working in an environment where you can have a vast and positive impact on customers and colleagues alike. Working within a contact centre has its challenges like any other role, however, it has enabled myself to connect and collaboratively work with key stakeholders within and outside of the department. This is a contributing factor in continually driving ways towards improving the customer and colleague experience and journey.

Whilst in my earlier roles at Sage and still to this day, there are individuals who invested time and effort in supporting my personal development. This included opportunities of being part of meetings, projects and initiatives that benefited the teams and essentially workstreams that I was involved in.

We’ve been encouraged to have a Personal Development Plan which is great to focus on development and to continually improve on key skills through delving ourselves in activities and tasks. Essentially this will create a foundation to showcase what value you can add to future roles. I was fortunate to have a few options when I started my job-searching however I decided to choose Sage. This was due to the opportunities and security of being part of a large organisation to unearth areas of personal growth and development.

In 2016, I first started as a Sales executive and then progressed to a Key Account Manager within 18 months. When the opportunity of a secondment role as a Change Manager presented itself, I wanted to grab the chance of showcasing my skills and desire to progress further within the department. Through determination and the support of my peers and key stakeholders I managed to turn this secondment in to a full-time position in which I am currently in this role a year on. My advice to anyone who endeavours on starting their career journey within a contact centre is to be open-minded, identify where you can add valuable contribution and work hard to shape and create positive perceptions. You only get out what you put in; through determination, a strong work ethic and passion, you’ll be able to set yourself up for progression in your desired role. Technology is only an enabler in my role as it will support with the creation, development, and delivery of change. This includes the methods of communication with key stakeholders, the vast positive impacts on customers and colleagues and essentially the ability to deliver a great customer experience and journey.

Sara McIver, Customer Experience Manager, BGL Customer Services

After Graduating from Huddersfield University with a BA in Business Management I moved back to South Shields to be closer to my family. I had a few temp jobs and spent a year in hospitality before I applied for my first real contact centre job in 2008.

My first contact centre role was at More Than where I worked as a sales and service agent. Some of my friends worked there and were really vocal about how good the business was and how much they enjoyed it, so I applied.

I was only in the business for a very short time when I was successful in becoming a seconded team leader. This was a huge change for me as I had very little contact centre experience and had never managed a team of that size before.

I love the environment a contact centre offers. It’s fast paced, busy and there’s always something going on. The people are always happy and friendly, and everyone wants to help. No matter what is going on I always feel engaged when I walk into the office.

Contact centres give you so many opportunities to get involved in different projects, to work with other areas of the business, and to develop your skills. I know so many people who have started their careers in a contact centres.

After a Team Leader secondment at More Than, I left to join be Insurethebox.com. Within the first year I progressed from Agent to Team Manager to Deputy Customer Service Manager. I worked in Gibraltar and London, as well as Newcastle. I was exposed to so much and gained so much knowledge and experience as a result.

In September 2015 I joined BGL Customer Services as Customer Experience Manager as I was looking for a new challenge. BGL Customer Services was absolutely the right fit for the next step in my career. It allows me to use all the experience I gained over the last 7 years, as well as exposing me to and developing new skills. Development is a focus for everyone that works at BGL. The company offers so many different opportunities to develop, no matter what position you hold. I’ve been here for almost 5 years now and I love it.

I would advise anyone at a crossroad in their career to consider working in a contact centre. There are many roles that people aren’t aware of. It’s not just answering the phones!

Laura Kennedy- Accounts Manager, Customer Success at Sage

I live in Chester-Le-Street with my 3-year-old son and partner. I went to college straight from school studying beauty therapy and loved the first year, the second year not so much. I didn’t feel challenged enough. I wanted to start my career and make money.

Both my parents work in sales. Watching them as I grew up, I knew it was something I wanted to do.

I applied to the AA to become an inbound sales agent in 2011. It was a huge well-known company and that is what originally attracted me to apply. I worked there for 5 years and quickly progressed to become one of the top salespeople on the floor. This was a massive accomplishment for me to be recognised at such a young age.

I progressed into a Sales Coach role, coaching and supporting the sales floor which I loved. An opportunity arose for me to have my own team on a seconded basis. The team I inherited were underperformers and low KPI achievers and I managed to turn the team around in short space of time. This is where I got my first taste of management. I had so many opportunities which I leapt at the chance to do while I was at the AA. Looking back, I will be forever thankful for them putting trust in a much younger, less experienced me.

I got to the point where I wanted to be challenged further. I knew inbound sales inside out, whilst I had never done outbound before, I decided to apply for a role at Sage, and was successful.

Sage is a very fast paced company with ever changing processes which was all new to me. I love learning new things and feeling challenged. I progressed through the training quickly and was the first person from my induction group to leave the academy and join a sales team. I quickly made my way up the ladder as one of the top salespeople in my team.

I fell pregnant a few months into my role and had my lovely Freddie at the age of 24. I took my full maternity leave and came back into the business part time. Once Freddie turned 3 and was able to go to nursery more, I increased my hours at work as I once again wanted more of a challenge. I supported my manager and began to get a lot more exposure throughout the sales floor and management team.

I applied to be in Sage’s ‘Talent Pool’ which is for high potential talent who want to progress into a sales Team Manager position. In February I stood in for a team manager and made an immediate impact. With positive feedback and improved performance, I am now seconded off the phones every Wednesday to look after a team. I am also another manager’s ‘go to’ if they are ever off the floor. I am hoping to progress into a management position when the opportunity becomes available as I feel this is the next step for me and my career.

Working in a call centre is not the “dead end job” it seems to be thought of. I have complete job satisfaction in my role. I am so pleased I applied to work at both the AA and Sage. I have loved my journey so far and looking forward to what’s ahead of me. It can be a great career opportunity regardless of background, and who knows where your career could end up!

I feel hugely honoured to have been asked to become an ambassador for this exciting initiative. If I can give any advice to anyone thinking about a career in a call centre, then it would be to think big and really go for it. I would be so pleased if my son progresses in a call centre as the career potential is endless!

Danielle Cooke - Communications Coordinator, AXA Insurance

Tell us about yourself, education, where you’re from, family…?

I live in Stockton with my husband, twin boys Lucas & Louise age 6 and my Dalmatian Rosie. I’ve been at AXA now for almost 15 years. Before that I was Cabin Crew for ThomsonFly and completed an Apprenticeship in a Travel Agency.

What contact centre did you begin your career in, what was your role there and what attracted you to the role?

First Choice travel agents. I was an Apprentice and completed various roles during my time there. I love travelling and looked at it to be the perfect opportunity to be in a fun, exciting industry whilst learning and gaining a qualification.

What do you enjoy most about working in a contact centre?

The opportunities it brings and there’s so much change it really does keep us all on our toes. There’s never a dull day.

Do the organisation offer any support, development initiatives or other opportunities to help you progress your career?

Yes. There’s numerous opportunities to learn and develop open to everyone.

Tell us how your career progressed from your first contact centre role to your current position

I started my career as an inbound telephone agent. After a few years I progressed to be a Team Leader in a relatively small department. I was then looking for the next challenge, so in order to get more exposure to the wider business I moved to a much larger department, but in the same role as a Team Leader. In 2013 I had my twin boys and returned to work part time as a Workforce Planning Analyst. A secondment opportunity came up to be Managers Assistant, which I applied for and was successful in my application. This was another great experience and I learnt a lot of new skills. When the secondment came to an end, a Communications Coordinator role was advertised and that’s the position I’m in now. I’ve been in this role for almost 2 years now.

What advice would you offer to anyone about to embark on a career in a contact centre?

Don’t view it as a dead end job. Here at AXA we have a lot of people with long service and it really can be a great career if you want it to be.


Vanessa Lindsay - Colleague Experience Lead, Tesco Bank

I started my journey in contact centres in 2002 following a successful retail leadership career. It was time for a change and with a young family I wanted more flexibility in the way I worked. I popped on my 1st headset with The AA one Monday morning and started my journey helping customers with their Car insurance products. One thing that working in retail had taught me was to put the customer at the heart of what you do and if you can do this you’re on the right track. I spent the next 9 years learning my craft and all of the products The AA offered time flies when you’re having fun.

In 2011 with my girls moving on at school it was time to look for a new adventure. Tesco bank offered a unique approach to serve customers in a different way to competitors in a non-targeted environment. So I took the sound GI knowledge I had gained from The AA and started a new journey with Tesco Bank a company that has the backing of a powerful brand with an opportunity to combine my customer service & GI insurance knowledge.

I went to Tesco with the dream of combining the skills I had gained so far in leadership & customer service, I’ve always believed in understanding what’s important to my customer so started my career at Tesco Bank as a customer services representative. After 6 months I moved to a coach role to support colleagues to challenge their ways of thinking and find solutions to help them fulfil their potential. Coaching is my natural state I still use the models I have learnt in my role today and at home with my 5 now grown up children. My teenage daughter Beth will often say “you’re doing that coaching thing again mum aren’t you” my partner Andy has no idea I’m doing it.

After a couple of years I started my journey to a Team Leader. I spent a summer like ‘Mary Poppins ‘with my Tesco bag moving around different teams providing cover for existing team leader holidays ensuring everything ran smoothly while they were away and then providing a handover when they returned. This gave me the opportunity to build on the skills I had in my toolbox already and enabled me to secure my 1st Team leader role in 2014.

My role as a team leader provided me with the opportunity to take my team with me on a journey and help them to grow and fulfil their own potential just as I had. I’m a great advocate of people development and enabling colleagues to find new opportunities and used my time as a leader to do this while building a deeper understanding of how the business worked. During my time as a Team leader I was recognised by the CCMA as a silver winner for Team manager of the year in 2018. My time as a leader enabled me to build my leadership network, this helped me to secure my current role as a Colleague Experience Lead.

In my time as a colleague experience lead I’ve lead several improvements for colleagues in opportunity from ensuring we secure dedicated time for them to learn, grow & know to supporting them with talent development programmes & career pathways. One thing I’m particular proud of this year is the partnership I have lead with a charity called the Girls Network who provide girls an influential female role model with an opportunity to have regular mentoring sessions to help them shape their own future.

What can I say about my journey so far? It’s not where I thought I would be when I started out at 18 but along the way I’ve met some amazing influential role models that have enabled me have some fantastic opportunities to grow I’m looking forward to the future with an open mind to continue on my adventure.

Caroline Clifford - Colleague Experience Manager, Tesco Bank

My life in a contact centre started out 22 years ago as an insurance advisor on a 12 week contract, and I’ve never left the industry or ever looked back!

I joined RSA as an advisor speaking to customers about their insurance needs and I loved the competiveness of achieving sales targets - at that time we didn’t have as much of the regulatory governance we have today. I instantly loved the environment of a contact centre and after doing this for 4 years I realised life in a contact centre could be a career and I was keen to progress, I then moved my 1st leader role as an evening Team Leader. Working evenings has the most amazing camaraderie, customer queries are often more complex and generally support functions close at 5 o clock so you need to work together to share knowledge to succeed, this was when I first understood what collaboration and resilience really were!

My next role as Sales Coach gave me the opportunity to do what I loved in the Team Leader role but for most of my time at work. It was to coach colleagues to be the best they can be, this role also gave me a real foundation to my own toolkit of being able to be a good coach, and this was the stepping stone to my next move.

After 8 years with RSA I was successful in gaining my 1st Operations Manager role by this time the direct arm of RSA had their own brand More Than. Being an Operations Manager gave me the opportunity to learn more about how a contract centre operates end to end, lead projects to help serve our customers betters as well as developing colleagues, win/win for me as it was the perfect combination.

Then the most amazing opportunity came up which was probably a once in a career opportunity that I could not turn down. In March 2010 I joined Tesco Bank as one of the 1st Operations Managers to open the contact centre on Quorum Business Park. We had until October that year to recruit Team Leaders, over 400 agents and be ready so serve our customers in a non-targeted environment. After 2 years I was promoted to lead Operations Manager which I did for 3 years, this role enabled me to really understand the changing demands of customers and colleagues.

After so many years in the front line operation I moved direction and wanted to further develop my skills in a support function. I was an Insurance Change Readiness Manager for 18 months before moving to my current role which is Customer Service Colleague Experience Manager. In this role I am able to be the driving force to make life easier and better for over 2300 colleagues across insurance and banking in Newcastle and Glasgow. Leading improvements on talent development, career opportunities, and our apprenticeship programme as well as simplifying some of our customer and colleague processes to name a few.

I have had the most amazing career to date with some fantastic opportunities along the way, throughout all of my roles I’ve never forgot where I come from and what it like to be on the frontline serving customers well – it’s never let me down.

Stephen Johnson Ramsey, Talent and Leadership Development Partner - Insurethebox

I started my career working on the tills in McDonalds and I progressed to be a Shift Manager by the age of 19. I really enjoyed my time working in this industry and I learned a lot about resilience and customer service. It also taught me the value of people and training, as this is a big focus within McDonalds.

I then moved on to become a receptionist for a marketing company, and over the eight years that followed I worked in various roles, eventually becoming Organisational Head of Administration and Recruitment. It was such a change, but really helped me to understand what I wanted from my life. I wanted to work in a role which allowed me to make a difference. I had a lot of support from the Managing Director who taught me how to see the bigger picture and understand what it means to lead people.

I took a slightly different turn in my next role and this was my first experience within a contact centre, working on the SKY campaign with an organisation called The Listening Company. My role was in retentions, helping people to understand their TV packages. I thoroughly enjoyed this and the great time I spent with people doing the same role – it really felt like a family! I applied for my first training role after working for the company for six months and became Recruitment and Training Manager, a position I held for the next three years. This role was fast paced, constantly changing and thoroughly challenging. I learned so much from my colleagues and friends during this period about how to inspire and train people from all occupations in many different elements of contact centre life. I feel one of the biggest lessons I learned was that people wanted to do a good job, and a job is what you make of it.

I then decided I wanted to put my training into practice and took a role at Insurethebox six years ago as a Team Manager, working in the Customer Service Department. I was astounded by the level of time and care that was invested in staff at the company. Coaching and development were key to the success of the company and I was encouraged to help my team to progress and excel in whatever they did.

I quickly found myself spending more and more time working with apprentices and I eventually took responsibility for all the apprentices we had on site, working with them as a link between the college and the company to provide them with the smoothest possible experience. If nothing else – I learned that a 17-year-old could speak a very different language to me! After a couple of years, I applied for my current role as Talent and Leadership Development Partner. With the merger between Insurethebox and Aioi Nissay Dowa in its early stages, this opened my eyes to the Group and the diverse opportunities available within the industry.

One thing I have learned is that there are so many opportunities and experiences available within a contact centre and you have no idea where your career may end up.

Carl Bowles, Head of Customer Contact - Npower

I first plugged in my headset 27 years ago at the British Airways call centre in Newcastle. Like many people around this time, I saw this as a stop-gap until I landed the type of role I wanted to do as a career. As the site grew I moved into roles within training, call management, telephony and leadership, and before long I was hooked.

Since those early days I’ve had the pleasure of working for several large blue-chip companies, learning about new businesses and skills from some fantastic people. As my career progressed I became involved in business continuity and crisis management, delivering technology projects like speech recognition, multi-channel contact systems, speech analytics, customer feedback; then learning about, and leading quality assurance, MI and resource planning.

Looking back now, I’m amazed at how many varied roles I’ve been able to do, and I’ve benefited from acquiring lots of skills and leadership development opportunities. I’ve been with Npower 10 years now and my current role really pushes and stretches me every day. I love being able to improve things for our people and our customers and I get a real sense of satisfaction being able to pull on what I’ve learned, surrounded by a fantastic network of colleagues and partners - which is what makes the biggest impact.

I can’t wait to see what our magnificent industry does next and would encourage existing or new entrants to really see what we do. It’s an industry that can provide personal growth, development and satisfaction for the whole of your career.

Arun Malhotra, Business Analyst - Sage

Like a large proportion of graduates, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do post degree so I started off my working life in recruitment, followed by stints in the legal and third sector before finding my home at Sage. 2016 was a real turning point for me, most notably due to the birth of my first child but also from a career perspective. Having flittered between different career paths with very little direction, fatherhood forced me for the first time to really take stock of where I wanted my next career path to lead, I just didn’t at that point realise it was at Sage! Whilst between jobs I took up a temporary assignment through NRG, working as technical support at Sage and I absolutely loved it. Looking back, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was about the role that excited me but I suppose it was a combination of working for one of the largest Technology companies in the world, coupled with their laser sharp focus on providing world class customer service.

At the end of the temporary assignment, I took up a role outside of Sage for a 6 month period however something was niggling away at me telling me that I had made a wrong decision. Fortuitously, I bumped into one of my former Sage Coaches one evening outside central station and posed the question as to whether there were any upcoming opportunities. Andy quickly put me in touch with my old manager Richie and within a matter of days, I was invited for interview and a start date had been agreed. My first year at Sage was like a whirlwind, full of excitement, learning and some amazing opportunities along the way. I started off supporting our desktop payroll product and quickly moved on to also supporting our cloud based accounts and payroll community, something that was a huge challenge being that it was only my first year. I was also fortunate to have been nominated and win our national Customers for life award, something I’m immensely proud of to this day. Year 2 was a real turning point for me having been given the opportunity to lead a cross departmental project into reviewing the pensions module inside 50 payroll. In truth, this gave me exposure to some key senior figures from across the business, coupled with the fact that I had a superb project team to support me. To cap a phenomenal year, I was shortlisted for the NECCA Contact centre advisor of the year award, something that was totally unexpected but that I really really wanted to win, not just for personal satisfaction, but to show the industry what a truly exceptional place Sage is to work.

Winning the Contact Centre Advisor of the year award was a real launchpad for my career and within a month of winning this, I was successful in an application to become a Business Analyst, something I had been working towards for the past 12 months or so. Looking back, were the sacrifices I made in terms of taking a reduction in my salary and all of the extra hours worked worth it? Without hesitation the answer is yes. Sage is a very special place to work, full of opportunity and support to get you where you want to be but you really have to want it and take ownership of driving your own career. I feel hugely privileged to have been asked to become an ambassador for this exciting initiative and if I can give one bit of advice to anyone who is thinking about a career in a call centre, then it would be to think big and really go for it.

Laura Welch CSC Digital Delivery Performance Leader - Home Group

After having my sights fixed on one very specific career path for most of my school life and a university picked and planned, you can imagine the panic come A-Level results day when my Dad suggested ‘Maybe a degree in music might limit your future. Why don’t you broaden your horizons with something like a marketing degree – every business needs it and the industry will have a constant demand for people?' Cue the serious wide eyed emoji. However, it was probably the most sensible decision I’ve ever made.

I got a place at Newcastle University to study Marketing and quickly became fascinated with my new knowledge; analysing TV adverts and researching high profile marketing campaigns and the viral effect they could have. But for me, I was fascinated with the digital aspect of marketing and how it was never, ever ‘finished’ like a piece of print was.

I managed to get an internship at a top North East marketing agency during my second year and managed to secure a full time position by the time it finished. A time of mixed feelings for me as it was the start of the 2009 recession so graduate jobs were few and far between, but also many of my friends were excitably starting their gap year adventures so I had major FOMO.

I loved the busy multi-channel agency environment but craved a company with a strict digital focus. I soon moved to Shout Digital to become an Account Manager for a small but rapidly growing, ambitious company. After several years of servicing clients and with influence from some key role models I knew I wanted to switch on the client side and my intrigue was starting to outshine my love for the agency world.

Aside from work, something I’m passionate about is fitness; it’s an important part of my day and sets me up each morning. I became addicted to HIIT training and became a member of a boutique fitness centre close to my house and it was my new passion. The company was again small but emerging and launching across the UK and Europe at a rate of knots. Soon after joining and getting to know the owner he offered me the opportunity to run their flagship centre within their Head Office managing a team of 12 staff, an opportunity I just couldn’t turn it down. Turning my hand to new levels of responsibility managing all aspects of the company’s operations (from HR and day to day operations to payroll), I knew it would expose my weaknesses but also broaden my knowledge of what it is actually like to run a business and the many challenges a new business faces. It really challenged me, but with the business taking off in a direction I wasn’t expecting, I decided to take a career break and almost fell into the contact centre world by accident.

I had aimed to take several months off to reignite aspects of my life I had become too busy with work to nurture. However, during this time a friend sent me the job description for Digital Delivery Performance Leader at Home Group saying it looked perfect for me. I read the description and it was the first time I’d read a job description that actually made me excited. I thought anything that made me feel like that was worth applying for.

I adore housing and have a personal interest in it and wanted to work for a company with strong values intent on making a difference. I started managing Home Group’s public facing digital contact channels (mainly social media and live chat) whilst building up knowledge of a whole new industry. The timing was perfect in respect that as soon as I joined the organisation, they were starting out on a true digital transformation in terms of customer service. It was right up my street and I was assigned to work on the project. I subsequently took on the customer service management of Home Group’s new customer digital account, My Home Account, full time and recruited a team of 9 talented individuals to help take it forward.

We’ve created a bespoke solution built for our customers, informed by our customers and I’m so proud of everything we have achieved so far as we’ve come a long way in a reasonably short time. A humbling moment recently for me was winning the 2018 ‘Customer Experience Champion of the Year’ award at the North East Contact Centre Awards for My Home Account, shortly followed by a shortlist for the UK Award with the same name.

There are so many opportunities at Home Group to build your own career path, and my 2019 goal is to replicate the agile approach to my day job in my own career and step out of my comfort zone. Be brave enough to take opportunities I would normally be to wary to consider.

I have no idea what the future holds in terms of my career, but I’m excited.

Jo Potts, Resourcing Consultant - AXA UK

Like so many of us, I went to University expecting my career to go in a certain direction but one little internship sharply diverted my meticulously planned career path.

I was “hell bent” on becoming a University Lecturer and I planned all of my education around this. During my final year of study, a paid internship opportunity became available at a Human Resources (HR) department at my local College. What better way to understand the world of education, right? Well, I was blindsided by the HR bit.

Who knew HR was so interesting! Every day was different, I was involved with a variety of projects and I felt as though I was making a real impact. After time, academic writing just wasn’t thrilling enough – I realised I liked being out in the field and I loved supporting people. After working across different areas of HR (i.e. payroll, training and development, employee relations etc.), it was obvious that I had a thing for recruitment.

Luckily my internship was extended to a fixed term contract and after building a foundation of HR knowledge, I later felt confident enough to apply for a Recruitment Officer role at the North East Autism Society (NEAS). In this role I blossomed. With the help of some key role models, I learned to challenge the status quo, try new ideas (and some didn’t always work) and really get my teeth into improving candidate journey. During this time, I also attended a night course to obtain a Level 5 CIPD professional qualification in Human Resource Management.

One high that I’m incredibly proud of includes working directly with Centrepoint to help Zinnia secure her dream apprenticeship which helped move her life into a more positive direction:

https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/royal-approval-for-sunderland-s-zinnia-1-9016696 https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/homeless-christmas-young-mum-tells-15480970

So, how did I end up in the contact centre world you may ask?

One day I was approached by a lovely chap from a recruitment agency who was sourcing talent for a recruitment role at AXA UK. Having enjoyed my time in the education and charity sector, I really didn’t see myself anywhere else and so I kindly told the Consultant that I didn’t wish to leave my current role.

Later, I shared this encounter with one of my role models and we talked in depth about where I wanted to take my career. Although I felt incredibility loyal to the charity I worked for, there was no higher recruitment position I could work towards. A few weeks later, I contacted the Consultant to see if he was still recruiting for AXA UK. Thank goodness he was!

Based on my experience and lack of industry knowledge, I was surprised each time my application was progressed to the next stage and I was delighted to be offered a Resourcing Consultant position. Several friends (not linked to the contact centre world) offered their stereotypical viewpoint of the sector: “They don’t care about you as much”, “You’ll just be a number” and “corporate life is stressful” etc. And I have to admit, I was concerned that I’d never find the same wonderful working environment I’d experienced at NEAS.

But I had nothing to worry about. The development opportunities available at AXA instantly blew me away. Many of the guys started as Apprentices and/or Advisors and then worked their way to Project Manager, Head of Sales, Speech Analyst, Communication Co-ordinators etc., all gaining professional qualifications along the way. I definitely don’t feel like a number at AXA. Each person is given the opportunity to build their own bespoke career development plan and given support to smash each goal. I recruit for several interesting departments and I have the opportunity to travel to other offices across England and Scotland. Each day I learn new ways of working from my Resourcing and wider teams and I feel lucky to do something I truly enjoy (Yes, I know, very cheesy…)

So, what does the future hold? Who knows. I’ve learned to ride the waves and to no longer try to meticulously plan my path. One thing I am certain of; never say no to a new opportunity or a project at work, especially if it scares you or makes you feel a little anxious. You’ll make your biggest learnings from these moments and ultimately they’ll become the building blocks of your career.

Eugene Taylor, Continuous Improvement Delivery Manager - npower

My contact centre journey started way back in 1996 when I joined Scottish Gas as an adviser on the 4-8pm shift helping customers with pre-payment meters. Local major businesses were winding down (shipyards, and mines) and the internet was just becoming popular!! I was in the process of winding down a dental business and thought “this will do me for a few months” and here we are 23 years later!

As I settled into contact centre life I became acutely aware of my environment and the opportunities and benefits it provided me with. Spending 10 years self-employed absolutely magnified this for me.

I loved the spirit of community that existed, the various clubs and groups that I could join in with and the care from great colleagues when I was having a bad day. The facilities were great (for the time) and the career scope was becoming ever clearer!

It was in the contact centre that I developed a thirst for learning and development! I found myself buried in books and learning sessions developing new life skills like Mavis Beacon typing skills and leadership and this led to my first foray into contact centre leadership.

I had a fabulous leadership mentor (Terry Delaney – sorry he was such a wonderful man I love to remember him fondly) who encouraged me to develop leadership skills like coaching, feedback, performance management and most importantly caring for my people. This brief spell has shaped my entire career and general life choices so you can see why I revere it and Terry so much!

Following a successful spell in leadership I gravitated to learning and development and have enjoyed a great career developing others. This includes frontline colleagues and leaders and senior leaders as well as creating and developing award winning learning & development teams.

Life in the contact centre has allowed me to realise so many personal and professional goals. You can imagine my joy when my son decided (despite previously telling me that contact centre life sounded dull) that his future was in the contact centre industry!

My story isn’t intended to be a cathartic journey down memory lane (I will leave that to the pub when I retire) no, it is to share my joy, experiences and opportunities that I hope anyone reading this will consider.

Contact centres are cathedrals of hope and opportunity and I hope one day I am reading your story!

Nic Hall, Customer Success Director – Sage

I first started working in the contact centre environment in 1996 as a sales adviser at The AA. I applied to the company rather than wanting the specific role as I just knew I wanted to work for a big company and have what felt like it would be a secure job. I loved the job and progressed quickly, securing a Team Manager role in 1997, where I lead a team of Emergency Breakdown advisers initially before moving to an Outbound Sales Manager role until 2002. I then moved into a Sales Development role, where I was tasked with introducing sales into a very traditional service environment. I left there in 2005 after taking voluntary redundancy a few months after having my 2nd daughter.

I loved people management and contact centre environment, and in 2005 I started work for Telewest (which later became Virgin Media), and I would say this is where I really developed my career, grew in confidence and set the foundations for the leader I am today. I started in a Team Manager role, and then moved into a secondment as Operations Manager. When that ended, I knew I was ready for a new challenge so applied for an Outsource Relationship Manager role working with vendors based in The Philippines. It meant travelling out there 4 times a year which is a huge opportunity, and one I wish at the time I had appreciated more. In addition, the company were extremely generous and funded me taking my degree in Business Management, and I graduated in 2017 after 4 years studying alongside my full-time job. Challenging yes, but I never take the easy route…where’s the fun in that?

In 2012, I moved to Sage as a Senior Sales Manager leading a direct sales contact centre. It was a very different business to any I had worked in previously and quickly discovered that you learn fast or you don’t succeed. That is perfect for me though as I am always looking for new ways to learn, and I can look back and see just how far I have progressed in my confidence and capability. In 2016, I was nominated for the Leadership category in the North East Employee of the Year awards. I was really humbled but delighted to win, but then I was chosen as the overall Employee of the Year from all of the category winners. It was a very proud moment.

In 2016, I was promoted to Head of Welcome & On boarding before progressing to Sales Director in 2018, and then in January 2019 I secured the permanent Customer Success Director role which is an exciting move. There are lots of times when talking to people they comment “you can tell you are a salesperson!” I take this a compliment because sales and contact centres have provided me with opportunities to learn, build a career and ultimately a good life for me and my family. There are so many career paths that open up to you in this environment. My advice to anyone entering the contact centre environment is work hard, always be curious and where are not obvious opportunities to make yourself valuable…. go ahead and create them. There is always room for people who have great ideas and want to know more about the business.

Paul Kemp, Head of WFM – Barclaycard

My first role following university was as an Information Analyst at Newcastle Building Society (NBS), having originally applied for a role within the branch network, the hiring manager thought I would be better suited for this role within the contact centre support team.

Following a review from an external consultant, I was pinpointed as the ideal candidate to set up a new Planning & MI function within NBS. Never having had any planning experience, there was a fairly steep learning curve, particularly given the growth of NBS’s outsourced business at the time. Learning all the technical nuances of the role, words I’d never heard of before let alone what they meant such as erlang c, scheduling etc. At the same time, I had to set up a brand new team, never having managed an individual at this point. I’m very proud to look back on that original team, with everyone one of them having gone on to bigger and better things either internally or externally.

So what started as a bit of stop gap, ended up being a very successful seven-year spell which gave me a great foundation for my future career. I am thankful to the consultant that first saw something in me to suggest I would be “ideal” for a planning role and for my first joint bosses – two very strong, unique and inspirational women who still have an impact on how I manage and perform my role to this day.

It was however, time for a change and I joined the NHS as a Service Development Manager, a significant change in both role and type of organisation. My role within the team was to ensure effective delivery of existing medicines management support to over 100 GP practices across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. In addition, I had to identify enhanced / additional services the team could offer to GP’s to enhance the care and provision of medication to patients.

An eye opening experience on a number of levels, which I do draw more positives then negatives from, but I quickly realised that I missed the buzz and pace of contact centres and more specifically being part of a planning function.

An opportunity to join Barclaycard as a Demand Planning Analyst arose, which I jumped at. It did necessitate a daily eighty mile round trip but the opportunity to join a brand such as Barclaycard was just too good to turn down. I’ve been presented with numerous opportunities supporting most operational areas within Barclaycard, from commercial cards, Southern Europe and my current remit of Consumer Servicing and Digital Helpdesks across Barclaycard and Barclays. Each operational area requires a slightly different approach in terms of stakeholder engagement, processes and outputs.

There’s a perception that planning is all about number crunching, but nothing can be further from the truth. Within my team there are a number of different roles, all requiring slightly different skills and competencies. From a Real Time Analyst who monitors and reacts to changes in demand/supply through to a Change Demand Analyst whose role it is to understand the impact to operational areas of the change pipeline.

One of the things I enjoy most about my current role as Head of WFM, is the variety of stakeholders I have to engage and form strong working relationships with, whether that be operations, finance, change, commercial teams or L&D. I have the pleasure of working with some great people across these disciplines, many of which have acted as informal mentors, enabling me to further my professional development by drawing on their specific experience and skills. There is a great spirit of an extended team, with each area playing a key strategic role in ensuring positive outcomes for colleagues, customers and company. My role has also enabled me to forge great working relationships across the UK, Spain, Portugal, India and the Philippines.

Every day is different, from managing real time impacts of external incidents i.e. an organisation going into administration. Then within the next breath interpreting five year commercial plans and translating into an operational plan/budget.

Planning has over the last couple of years has seen a renaissance in the role it can play within an organisation, being seen as a key strategic partner in ensuring a cost effective, customer and colleague centric contact centre operation. It also represents a great opportunity to learn a diverse skillset i.e. strategic planning, stakeholder management, effective communication skills etc which can easily be transferred to other disciplines / roles within a contact centre, or other types of organisations.

Matt Weir, TA Manager – Worldpay

My career to date is not a traditional “call centre” one, like many other’s I had misgivings about starting a career in an environment where I would be treated as a battery hen or chained to a desk (These were some of the things I heard, mainly from people who hadn’t set foot in a call centre before).

I joined Orange PCS Ltd in 2008, with a very varied work history and had found myself drifting from one job to the next. Despite what I had heard from friends and family about the environment I thought I would give it a go. One of the biggest fear factors for me starting my career, was the idea that all I would do is “sell to people” and whilst I did offer the odd product or promote a particular service I didn’t have to pressure anyone and to this day I have never worked in a cold calling environment. For me, this was a huge barrier, even before starting. From the moment I joined the business, I had support and very comprehensive training. I met some great friends and finally felt I had found an industry I could use my skills to progress in, despite my lack of immediate experience.

I spent 18 months with Orange and really enjoyed my time with them. Since this role I have worked in a variety of contact centres across the North East including Sage, Teleperformance, Orange and The Listening Company. Each of these roles helped develop my knowledge but more importantly my confidence. Being a customer’s first point of contact seemed like a hugely stressful ordeal at first, but every business I have worked with have tried and tested methods of supporting their staff to the point, where you are comfortable even when you get hit with a curveball.

Throughout my career, I hadn’t really focussed on a specific area I wanted to work towards, but in 2014 I was asked by a local recruitment agency (whilst interviewing for a call centre job) to help recruit for some of their contact centre clients. This was an opportunity that presented itself solely because of my experience within similar environments. After spending 4 and a half years with the agency I moved to an internal recruitment role and have moved to Worldpay as the Talent Acquisition Manager covering Gateshead and Manchester.

Working in various contact centres really helped me build on my ability to communicate and develop skills, I didn’t have before 2008. Many of the businesses in the North East that have contact centres are large businesses which often mean they can offer benefits that smaller, less corporate companies can afford. This can be something as simple as a higher pension contribution, discounted products and services, through to significant investment in development and training.

I now recruit people for the roles I held when I started in the industry and feel that my experience demonstrates things that people rarely see, unless they have worked in the industry. You are not limited to joining a business and working as an advisor for the rest of your days. You can if you want, progress in the traditional routes, to Manager or Team Leader, but the opportunities outside of that are unlimited. Contact centres have support functions for HR, Recruitment, learning and development etc.

It is a bit cliché but you’re only really limited by how you think you can develop

Nichola Shields, Customer Service Manager – Operations Contact Centre of Excellence, Northumbrian Water

I joined Northumbrian Water within a telephony role as a complaints advisor in 2006. I have worked in several roles within the contact centre and back office functions within the company. I progressed from advisor, through supervisor and team leader to get where I am today, as Customer Service Manager – Operations Contact Centre of Excellence, across 2 locations with 50 people (We have a contact centre in Essex as part of Essex and Suffolk Water).

Northumbrian Water is a great place to work and has invested in me as an up and coming leader. They funded my Level 6 qualification in Customer Service Management through the Institute of Customer Service. This really helped me when I was selected to be the business lead for our new Omni-Channel platform, a new and exciting way of capturing customer contact details and identifying them and the reason for their call, upfront. It included modules on project management and benefit tracking whilst acting as a reminder to always keep the customer at the forefront of everything we do.

This role has helped me build on my 12 years knowledge of the water and wastewater industry even further, so I can be a great support to my team and the wider business. Having broad knowledge helps me when making decisions on process changes, as I really understand the impact on other business areas and they understand how what they do, can impact on us.

Upon completion of the project I secured my current role where I lead a team of brilliant advisors and leaders who put the customer at the heart of everything they do. We take calls from customers who have no water or low pressure, right through to those who need to locate their external stop tap or have experienced sewer flooding during heavy rainfall. We also manage the social media accounts and received a great accolade from Oracle Utilities recently who said: ‘Our favourite account is Northumbrian Water, these folks are by far some of the savviest, funniest social media people out there in the Twitterverse!’

As a team we are always looking for innovative ideas to help customers and we came up with an app that allows us to see the issues our customers have experienced, in real time. This means we can diagnose the issue really quickly and give the correct advice or arrange for an engineer to attend. The Utileyes app was recognised as being ‘an industry game changer’ at the North East Contact Centre Awards 2018 where we were awarded ‘Best Implementation of Technology’. This was a fantastic achievement for us, and we celebrated in style and as a team at the gala dinner at Ramside Hall on Friday 8th February.

I love working for Northumbrian Water, it is a company that invests in its people, recognising the skills and talent they have, nurturing and developing those skills. This helps each and every employee become they best they can at whatever role they do.

Dan Britton, Head of Customer and Contact Services, NHS Business Services Authority

I joined the NHS BSA as a call handler in 2004 when it was known as the NHS Prescription Pricing Authority. Our emerging contact centre had only three teams of 12 people with five different call streams to be trained in. To cut a long story short - I’m still here and now Head of Service with over 30 teams and 500+ staff.

The NHS BSA has been a great place to work. The opportunities I have had for my own personal development over the last 15 years has been unbelievable; from progressing into a Team Manager position to training staff, leading on the implementation of new contact centre services and seeing some of my own ideas coming to life, creating efficiencies for millions of our customers.

I now have the privilege of setting the strategic vision for our contact centre and support the delivery of new initiatives using my own personal development experiences - including our ‘Career Pathways’ development programme. Basically, if you have the ambition to progress and you’re not scared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, then the opportunities are there in Career Pathways.

Progressing into a Team Manager role helped bring out my leadership skills, and seeing people develop as Deputy Team Managers into permanent posts was a really motivating aspect of the role for me.

I then moved into a more senior role as a Service Delivery Manager, in between some internal secondments in Project Management and Training, which allowed me to enhance my skills by ‘motivating the motivators’ and helping to develop Team Managers whilst getting experience in challenging situations and problem solving.

This role also allowed me to work more autonomously and to try new things without fear - leading me to bring about changes to our online application route for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), supporting customer self-serving by linking questions to our knowledge base and deflecting many unnecessary contacts over the past five years.

As Head of Service, over the past year or so I have seen many changes from office refurbishments to Artificial Intelligence systems going live and our expansion into homeworking and remote working across new sites. We have almost doubled in size as a contact centre and now receive over five million contacts per year.

I have also recently been a judge for the CCA Global national awards which provided a great opportunity to see other organisations doing great things. What is clear to me is that the contact centre sector is a really rewarding industry for individuals who want to push themselves further.

Christine Allenson, Head of Customer Management, npower

I took my first job at Barclays Bank to make a little bit of money in a gap year before starting University; to cut a long story short - I never left! What was initially a stop- gap job turned out to be my career for the next 32 years. Whilst I may have missed out on the experience of University and student life, the life experience I gained working for a blue chip company and the opportunities it gave me has been invaluable.

I joined the Bank branch network in a traditional role of junior machine room assistant. Having been given the opportunity of a fast track development programme, I moved through the various roles from cashier, loans officer and security officer, working at lots of different branches across the North East and meeting some great people.

I then moved into Head Office Regional roles doing things such as regional profit & losses, business planning, operations management and a regional premises role, responsible for all branch premises and amongst other things the installation programme for ATM’s in branches. Over this period I had my first experience of Leadership and during a career as long as mine, you see and experience first hand many different leadership styles, you learn from the best and understand what you don’t want to do from the poor ones. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn.

When Barclays decided to open a Contact Centre in the North East I decided to make the move and try something different. I started working there in 1998, before they had finished fitting out the building.

Culturally, moving from the branch network into a contact centre environment was like starting work for a completely different company, but I have never looked back and so began my career in contact centres.

We took our first call on 1st January 1999 and started with 2 teams. Over the next 18 years we grew this business into a multi-award winning contact centre. We were a 1200 strong people business, open 24 hours, 365 days a year, and became one of the largest employers in the Sunderland area - providing employment and career opportunities to so many people.

Over the years we saw many highs and lows, and change just became part and parcel of everyday life. What never changed however was the vibrancy and immediacy of the contact centre environment, and passion of the people to do the right thing for the customer. I have been lucky enough to work with some great people, leadership is a privilege to be earned but there is no greater feeling when you get it right and know you have made a difference.

I then moved on to a completely different industry, but one which is also as highly regulated, the energy sector. I started in a small start up business, finding my feet in a new sector, then doing some consultancy work before moving onto my current role at npower. Whilst the sector may be different, contact centre operational excellence and leadership is the same.

Throughout all of this I maintained contact and stayed involved in what was happening in the contact centre industry, through the Call Centre Management Association who support all contact centre professionals. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to get involved in judging for both the UK and European awards, which is such a great experience to see and help other people on their journey within this industry.

Jordan Dunne, Quality Analyst, AXA Insurance

I graduated from University in 2014 with a Degree in Fashion Journalism. After a number of unpaid internships I stumbled across a job advert for AXA Insurance as an Inbound Sales Agent. Initially the stereotype of Call Centre’s made me scroll past but the thought of living with the in-laws for the next year encouraged me to press apply!

I had worked in Retail a couple of hours a week alongside University but that was as exciting as my experience with customers got! So when I arrived for my first day at AXA I was so nervous and did not have a clue what to expect. I was soon reassured when I realised w e had a 4 week training course and two lovely trainers who would fill us with the knowledge and skills needed to do a great job.

When the 4 weeks were up I was welcomed onto a fab team with such amazing people with different backgrounds and ages. I started out on Sales setting up new policies with customers over the phone and was quickly skilled across every platform including emails. Everyday felt different and I found myself getting so much satisfaction with helping customers and hearing their lovely feedback. This part time job that was supposed to tide me over until we saved for a house deposit and I found my dream job has become a perfect role in a fab company that cares about my work life balance.

Soon after I was multi skilled I started to show interest into developing further within the business which AXA supported wholeheartedly. I got exposure across different departments including Training and the Quality Team.

I quickly fell in love with the Quality Team, who are responsible for making sure our agents are being compliant and giving our customers the best possible experience. I began a development programme to start transforming towards the role, on the back of this I got a Secondment, I then secured a full time position on the team and I have recently been successful in the role of Team Assistant to start my journey toward becoming a Team Leader.

I am a person that likes variation and a fast paced working environment so I have fit perfectly into the Quality Team, we get to be involved in lots of exciting projects that impact the whole business and even get to attend posh award ceremonies across the country.

What I’ve learnt working here at AXA is that you really do get out what you put in, there are endless opportunities and roles to suit everyone!

Kate Smith, Customer Assist Leader, Tesco Bank

Following time spent in retail at the start of my career, I made the move into the contact centre industry and joined British Airways contact centre as a telephone sales agent. I immediately took to the environment and enjoyed the customer service element but also the overall contact centre atmosphere. I progressed to a Team Leader role and again enjoyed being part of the leadership team and the day to day team management. At this time the industry was still very much perceived in a negative light, however right from the off this was not my experience and I was already a huge advocate of working in a contact centre.

Eager to progress and move on I then spent several years in an outsource environment, firstly with Sitel and then onto The Listening Company. During my time in both organisations I managed external clients across a wide range of industries including banking, mobile communications and food suppliers. The pace of outsourcing was something I absolutely thrived on and it certainly gave me the progression opportunities I was looking for. However none of these came without challenge, taking me on a journey through several re-structures, re-applying for roles and really having to drive my own development forward. All of this came as a learning to me and has helped me to continue to grow, most significantly understanding the importance of stakeholder management and building strong relationships across your network internally and externally.

Following almost 7 years in the outsource industry I was intrigued to learn that Tesco Bank were starting a brand new contact centre in the North East. Taking my experience from British Airways I was keen to explore the option of moving back to an in house operation and more specifically being part of something new. I joined Tesco Bank almost 9 years ago now, not knowing what this opportunity would bring me. It has without doubt confirmed my passion for working in this industry and given my tenure in the contact centre world I feel proud to have seen it move and evolve over time. At the heart of my drive is my passion for the day to day interaction with colleagues, more specifically seeing the investment in people and watching them go on their own development journey. My current role at Tesco Bank is as a Customer Assist Leader, perfectly combining my passion for people leadership and being involved in projects that make a positive change to the business. I have had the opportunity to lead Talent development within the bank and bring to the forefront some key colleague initiatives such as Modern Apprenticeships. In addition growing my own knowledge around insurance, commercial metrics, digital focus and the changing world of our customer demand.

And now having the opportunity to be part of the NECCP feels like the perfect next step on this fantastic career journey.

Andrew Warburton, Senior Operations Manager, Barclays

I was made redundant from my job as a workshop technician for a local Apple Reseller/Education specialist in 2004 so took a role at a local outsourcer, Garlands Call Centres as a stop gap whilst I searched for alternative employment in the industry I had just left. Given my background I was allocated to work for Wanadoo Broadband to support customers with technical support queries.

To say I had a perception bias of what it was like to work in a contact centre would be an understatement, however when I arrived and started working this was blown out of the water completely. I was part of a team and like any team I was working with some really interesting characters with an amazing camaraderie along with an open and inviting environment. This stop gap role turned into a 7-year journey. At that time the company was in a growth period and I put myself forward for a leadership role which I achieved – much to my surprise. Someone saw some raw skill within me, people leadership and organisation so gave me the chance. Over my 7 years I searched out opportunity and worked to cover periods where contact centre management were not present exposing me to a fantastic learning experience which led to securing another promotion. That was the start of my career in contact centres.

In the years that followed I have worked for EE, Sitel, Firstsource & Barclays, where I am working today. I have been exposed to Public Sector, Private Sector, Banking, Telecoms, Food, Media & Entertainment all of which have given me the experience and knowledge to take the next step in my Career. Nothing was put on a plate for me to take, showing an interest, believing in opportunities and working to make opportunities a reality has been key. Working with outsourcers has given me the biggest exposure to multiple industries, responsibility and learning – whilst working for captive blue chip organisations has educated me to corporate life and all the opportunity this brings.

I have been lucky enough to travel all over the UK, India & Philippines during the course of my work which has expanded my horizons and exposure to different cultures and ways of working – all an experience and learning journey. Today I work for Barclays Bank – specifically for Barclaycard where I am a part of the Senior Leadership team for Customer Services (personal cards) directly responsible for Scale Operations that manage our most complex contact types, designing our operational response to change and landing changes that impact both customers and colleagues.

Although it did not feel like it at the time, the best decision I made was to keep working within the contact centre environment. When I think about the role I play in my organisation, my network of contacts and friends around the world – not to mention the satisfaction I have at the end of each day reminds me of how lucky I am to have found this career.