Sitel are one of the world’s leading outsourcing providers of customer experience management. Originating in Nashville, Tennessee in 1985; a call centre was opened. Tim Chapman, Talent Acquisition Manager, tells us of these humble beginnings. “Essentially it was quite a small operation, and it just started to expand across the United States”.
An obvious expert in their field, Sitel work very much in a consultancy capacity for a range of high end clients, including John Lewis. Kirstie, HR Manager for Plymouth explains a little more; “There’s the insight element to what we do. As a business we are very good at managing the data around the customer service experience, and feeding this back to our clients in a way that can be used to manage the business”. Because Sitel are an industry leader, they have the skills and expertise that underpin the options they give to the business, and they can provide support in taking that route forward. Tim explains that Sitel’s work with John Lewis in the Plymouth branch has been a fantastic partnership, and they are really seeing the benefits of sharing best practice.
“We’ve got the infrastructure for those clients to come on board and be assured that they’re going to get a good service from the outset”
Tim tells us that Sitel deal with both inbound and outbound calls, and stresses the importance of being flexible to their client’s needs. “We’ve got agents who are specifically trained for social media, but what is key for us is that our staff are multi skilled. That way, as the landscapes change they can adapt and flex to their clients’ needs”.
In response to this, Sitel have their own in house progression and development programmes. “When we look at our associate satisfaction surveys, a lot of what we see coming back is our training and development programmes are what sets us apart. We are not compartmentalising people and saying; you’re only qualified for this, we’re saying we are giving you the skills needed to progress in the future, not just with Sitel- but in the customer service arena as a whole”.
Sitel opened its doors to the first associates on April 18th this year, so they are very new in terms of being an operational site. Kirstie tells us that they made the decision to set up premises in Plymouth after much deliberation. “There’s clearly a lot of regeneration going on in the city, it seems like the place to be. We have a sister site in Exeter which has been phenomenally successful- so this was a really good springboard to explore other south-west opportunities”.
Tim tells us that Sitel have a lot of fantastic community partners in Plymouth, Plymouth Council, the job centre and the University to name a few. “There has been a real buzz and a real want for Sitel to come and do well in the area. We feel as a business that that in a lot of rural areas there aren’t always job opportunities coming in abundance, so we want to invest in those local communities.”
“As a city to partner in, Plymouth has been one of the most successful launches that I’ve been a part of so far. We invest in and have a reciprocal relationship with the community at large, so it’s been a really collaborative approach. Plymouth has been such a good example of a community getting behind a new business”
Of course there has to be a mention of the building choice for their new premises. The Ship, built in 1993 by leading architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, played host to the former Plymouth Herald offices. When they decided to move in early 2003, the Grade II listed building came under threat of being demolished unless a new buyer could be found.
Tim tells us that they did look at different locations, but what won them over was the building itself. “It’s such an impressive, iconic building. Make no mistake; there has been a lot of hard work in getting the building to an operational state. As soon as we mentioned the Ship, there was a real desire to for someone to come in and keep it alive, and that really decided it for us”. Tim says it’s amazing how a 24 year old building can adapt to a modern call centre environment, and has the flexibility to grow as a space.
“The Ship is a modern, contemporary building. It’s in a great location, people can commute easily; you start breaking that down and it’s a no brainer that we had to come here really. People love the nautical theme!”
Sitel have generated huge employment opportunities for the city, with just over 200 employees currently working at The Ship, Kirstie tells us Sitel have only just started their growth plan for the business. “Our approach to recruitment has always been direct; we have that model put in place because we want future employees talking to current employees, with no middleman. As we head for Christmas we have a huge range of job roles available, to help with the rush for our retail clients. We had a recruitment day on August 19th, and plan on having many more in the future”.
“When it comes to our community partners, we never go to them and ask for potential employees. It’s more a case of, well what can we do for you in return, and that’s where the council has been really great. We’ve done a lot of work together to identify what kinds of skills gaps are in the local community, and what we can do to bridge those gaps”.
Kirstie and Tim want to stress that Sitel have great internal progression opportunities, something which they have both experienced firsthand. Tim tells us he joined the business in 2014 as a secondment in the recruitment department. “I had just moved back from Brighton at the time, so I joined for three months- in November which was one of the busiest times!” Tim was fortunate that his role was made permanent and he has been able to progress from there.
A similar route was taken by HR Manager Kirstie; “I joined the business back in 2001, as a part time call advisor having just started my family. I had an opportunity to take a secondment into HR team to help at a particularly busy time, I absolutely loved it and was lucky enough to secure a permanent position.” Kirstie tells us that not only did she feel she benefited from formal education, but also through the support of her team members at the time.
So what do Sitel look for in potential employees? Tim explains that the general rule of thumb in any industry is Will. “If someone has the will to do a good job; that is more important than the skill to begin with. We can teach the skills, but having the right attitude is something that can’t be taught. We want people who are engaged by what they are doing”
If someone’s got that ambition, Sitel recognises that and helps them to develop. About 70% of our team managers are there through internal progression, so many of them started out as call advisors
Tim finishes by telling us “recruitment is important, making sure that you are recruiting the very best talent; but actually what we’ve recognised is, we want our website and social media to not only attract possible candidates, but celebrate the achievements of our current associates. We want them to be proud of the work they do. It’s to make sure they know that they are working for a company that recognises their successes”.