Case Study: Public sector
Managing fluctuating volumes with digital solutions
Supporting the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games (LOCOG)
The 2012 Games was the first to combine a single organising committee for both Olympic and Paralympic sporting events. This made it very difficult to anticipate with accuracy what the demands on the contact centre might be during its two years of operation, but it was clear that they would be considerable.
The detailed plans and careful forecasting that typify most contact centre projects were absent in this case. “We had some statistics from previous Games that gave us some idea of what we might expect in terms of a step change in call volumes in the lead up to the Games,” says Jo-Anne Ruggieri, Head of Contact Centres for LOCOG, “but so much had changed in the intervening years—not least advances in digital communications channels and social networks—that there was inevitably a lot of ‘best- guessing’ going on. Although we knew exactly what we needed HGS to do, it wasn’t immediately clear what resources it would take. HGS weren’t fazed by that.”
Over 250,000 members of the public volunteered to be ‘Games Makers’. They would have to be vetted, interviewed, and rigorously tested. The 70,000 who made the grade had to be trained, equipped, allocated roles, kitted out with uniforms, and then given detailed briefs and schedules of attendance. Every aspect of their involvement had to be carefully coordinated.
The first point of contact for Games Makers was a specialist on-line portal, where they were encouraged to self-serve and access information about every aspect of their involvement. Inevitably, however, they needed to speak to someone from time to time. Over the course of the two-year build up to the Games, HGS spoke to many of them, often on several occasions.
The plans for selection, training, and briefing were—of necessity—big and complex. And, however well planned, sometimes went awry. Around 18,000 people were expected to attend orientation training at Wembley Arena on the weekend of 4 and 5 February 2011. Due to a snow storm, only 5,000 made it through. Over that weekend, HGS handled over 8,000 calls from volunteers who had been thwarted by the weather and went on to communicate details of new dates.
HGS not only had to coordinate with 70,000 Games Makers, but with the heads of 74 functional areas within LOCOG who would be using the Games Makers’ services. “The biggest functions were Event Services, Transport, Medical, and Sport,” says Michael Truman, LOCOG Contact Centre Manager for HGS, “but it was a long list! We liaised with each function to create the business rules, processes, and FAQs that we would use to deal with every possible enquiry a Game Maker might present us with.” As the Games got closer, HGS embedded its own team of 18 people plus management within LOCOG’s Canary Wharf offices, to work hand-in-hand with its functional teams, HR Shared Services Team, Volunteer Recruitment, and Training Staff.
HGS also embedded a small team in the LOCOG press office in the run up to and during the Games, which worked with press officers to develop appropriate public responses to stories emerging in the media. HGS’s presence in the press office was also part of an exhaustive crisis management plan, which would have immediately been implemented if a serious event had occurred that threatened the security of the Games.
Similarly, the contact centre acted as a barometer of public sentiment for LOCOG, with calls providing a clear indication of the public’s enthusiasms and concerns both before and during the Games. “HGS’s ability to capture intelligence from calls—both via its CRM system and anecdotally— helped us to stay in touch with the public and anticipate expectations,” says Jo-Anne. HGS also participated in a programme initiated by LOCOG to help coordinate the customer experience across several organisations responsible for the supporting infrastructure upon which a successful Games would depend. Contact centre leaders from organisations including Transport for London, National Rail and the Greater London Authority met quarterly until March 2012 and monthly thereafter to discuss best practices and processes across the capital that would guarantee the best possible customer experience, whoever took the call.
Between 19 May and 27 July, the Olympic Torch travelled 8,000 miles, visited over 2,000 communities and was seen by over 17 million people across the British Isles. HGS was behind the scenes, helping to coordinate the involvement of the 8,000 everyday heroes who carried it on its way. “LOCOG received 25,000 nominations on behalf of people who wanted to be torchbearers,” explains Michael Truman. “We liaised with them as they submitted their applications, helped successful candidates get organised, and commiserated with those who didn’t make the final cut.” HGS continued to be a key point of contact for torchbearers as their ‘big day’ approached. During the Torch Relay, HGS handled thousands of calls from torchbearers, as they checked details, collected uniforms, and prepared for their run. When some runners had to drop out at the last minute for reasons beyond their control, HGS helped backfill their slots so that the 70 day relay would run smoothly.
Calls into the contact centre increased dramatically in the lead up to the Games and increased again by over 100% once the Games began. Call volumes were highest during the Games, but fluctuated dramatically at crucial points during the Torch Relay and Games Maker programmes. So staying flexible was very important. When HGS opened its Olympic contact centre in June 2010 it was staffed by just four people but, at its peak, the team reached 150, with 18 people embedded within LOCOG’s office. HGS handled hundreds of thousands of calls and emails before, during, and after the Games, and more than lived up to Olympian performance standards.
In post-call evaluation surveys, it was clear that the vast majority of callers were highly satisfied with their contact centre experience. Quality scores, jointly calibrated with LOCOG, far exceeded the targets set and response times, even during the high-pressure period of the Games, were ahead of expectations.
“We stopped thinking of HGS as a supplier. They became one of us!”
“We knew from the start we would demand flexibility from our contact centre partner across the Olympic timeline.”
~ Jo-Anne Ruggieri, Senior Contact Centre Manager, LOCOG
Handled hundreds of thousands of calls from Games Maker volunteers, torchbearers, and the general public
Supported 25,000 nominations for the Torch Relay and the 8,000 runners who took part
A 2-year contact centre programme rising from a team of four to 150 people
Embedded teams in LOCOG’s office coordinated with key logistical functions and press office
Exceeded targeted performance for customer satisfaction, quality, and response times