Awards shortlist celebrates Wales’ crucial helplines and contact centre industry

The shortlist has been announced for the Cnect Wales Contact Centre Awards, which will be celebrated for the 25th time on 29th September.

Jomo People are headline sponsors of the awards at Cardiff City Stadium, which recognise the 32,000 employees who work within the 350 Wales-based centres that contribute £650m annually to the Welsh economy.

Centres and individuals are nominated for their employees and innovative strategies to support both customers and colleagues.

Sandra Busby, Managing Director of Cnect Wales, said: “We are proud to be marking the 25th awards, which highlight the remarkable role the industry plays in the success of our cross-sector clients.

“Whether it is a voice at the end of a telephone or a helpful and thoughtful response to an online question in a live chat, the reassurance offered goes a long way to ease anxieties, provide comfort or crucial support and information.

“All nominated teams and individuals are a great asset to their organisations and they also demonstrate an invaluable commitment to their own internal teams in terms of engagement, mental health and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. These are all factors which make the sector such a rewarding one in terms of employment.

“Helplines are providing crucial support during the current cost of living crisis, when so many people are at rock bottom financially and are still unclear exactly how their personal budgets will be impacted.

“Teams within utility companies; banks and financial services or community or council structures and many more, are all on-hand to advise and offer guidance.”

There are eight new categories among this year’s 21 major categories and one of these new awards will be given to the Best Advice Line / Helpline, nominees for which are Deloitte, Arvato CRM Solutions, Citizens Advice Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent, Connect Assist and Wales Nation of Sanctuary Ukraine Contact Centre (WNSU), run by Welsh Government and Cardiff Council.

At the height of the scheme’s Application Process between June 6 – July 25, 2022 WNSU received 3,463 calls and made 238,901 calls.

Apprentice of the Year

  • Joseph Kelly – Blackhorse Finance
  • Lendle Gest – Blackhorse Finance
  • Roopkiran Bahia – Blackhorse Finance
  • Meg Wilson – Deloitte
  • Emily Crawley – Deloitte
  • Connor Davies – TUI

Rising Star

  • Cameron McNeill – Aldermore
  • Alexandra George – Legal & General Retirement Solutions
  • Will Williams – CGI
  • Shannon Andrews – Deloitte
  • Ed Lindley – Lloyds Banking Group
  • Rhiannon Jones – Legal & General Direct Sales
  • Harry Porter – SSCL
  • Khadeza Begum – LexisNexis Risk Solutions
  • Kiera Law – NFU Mutual
  • Stuart Kendal – PHS Group
  • Zoe Thomas – Which?

Support Person of the Year

  • Kasia Wardman – Deloitte
  • Madison Declaire – Aldermore
  • Karen Williams – DVLA
  • Julie Harries – PHS Group
  • Gareth Rees – Legal & General Direct Sales
  • Katherine Adams – The Royal Mint
  • Phoebe Ward – Which?
  • David Thomas – BUUK
  • Mirona Gherhes – CGI 

Advisor of the Year (Inhouse)

  • Suzy Albertelli – Blackhorse Finance
  • Boris Savov – Deloitte
  • Adam Lewis – EE
  • Louise Evans – Legal & General Direct Sales
  • Ruth Walters – Lloyds Banking Group
  • Anne-Marie James – MotoNovo Finance
  • Ewyn Harrison – Dwr Cymru
  • Will Hunt – Hodge Bank
  • Abdul Sukur – Virgin Atlantic

Advisor of the Year (Outsource)

  • Emily Richards – Target
  • Jamie Friston – Target
  • Amanda Saxty – The Consumer Helpline
  • Dobir Ahmed – The Consumer Helpline
  • Mohammed Aleem – SSCL

Team Leader of the Year (Inhouse)

  • Kendra Daly – Blackhorse Finance
  • Susan Maxwell – TUI
  • Olivia Beedell – Starling Bank
  • Sarah Hall – Lloyds Banking Group
  • Georgia Leachman – DVLA
  • Ryan Jones – Virgin Atlantic
  • Jenna Ridout – Citizens Advice Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent
  • Amandeep Pabla – Acquis Insurance
  • Beth Lee – Which?

Team Leader of the Year (Outsource)

  • Norbert Paplinski – The Consumer Helpline
  • Paul Holmes – Target
  • Linda Lewis – SSCL
  • James Johnson – CGI

Trainer of the Year

  • Toni Oldham – Aldmermore
  • Elliot Racz – Deloitte
  • Emma Jane Williams – Target
  • Ellie Johnson – Capital on Tap
  • Samantha Mapstone – Dwr Cymru
  • Lauren Cole – The Consumer Helpline

Support Manager of the Year

  • Leyton Williams – Aldermore
  • Mike Johnson – Virgin Atlantic
  • Wendy Sheppard – TUI
  • Shaun Collins – Dwr Cymru
  • Bethany Woolway – Firstsource Solutions
  • Aimee Taylor – Vibrant Energy Matters
  • Katerina Lysandrou – Deloitte
  • Victoria Eyles – Alcumus
  • Scott Williams – CGI

Customer Contact Manager of the Year

  • Anwen O’Mahoney – DVLA
  • Matthew Lord – OGI
  • Gareth Watkins – Which?
  • Tracey Hutchison – Legal & General Direct Sales
  • Louise Terry – The Royal Mint
  • Mariana Vidal – Acquis Insurance
  • Chris Guy – Capital On Tap
  • Christopher Anstee – Legal & General Retail Annuities
  • Sarah Gallagher – TUI

Senior Leader/Manager of the Year

  • Jon Bartlett – Capital on Tap
  • Helen Grzonka – Deloitte
  • Karen Fuge – Legal & General Retail
  • Jason Webb-Wood – SSCL

Company/Team Categories 2023

Best Hybrid/Cross Functional Model

  • Dwr Cymru
  • Target

Support Team of the Year

  • Blackhorse Finance
  • Monmouth Building Society
  • Deloitte
  • Go Compare
  • Admiral
  • The Consumer Helpline
  • Starling Bank
  • CGI
  • TUI

Customer Team of the Year

  • Starling Bank
  • Legal & General Retail Annuities – New Business
  • Go Compare
  • Blackhorse Finance
  • Transport for Wales
  • Alcumus
  • Wales Air Ambulance
  • BT Swansea
  • TUI

Best Environment & Sustainability Strategy

  • To be announced on the night 

Best Advice Line / Helpline

  • Arvato
  • Connect Assist
  • Citizens Advice Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent
  • Deloitte
  • Welsh Government & Cardiff Council

People Development

  • EE
  • Firstsource Solutions
  • PHS Group
  • Deloitte
  • The Royal Mint
  • Alcumus
  • TUI 

People Engagement

  • MotoNovo Finance
  • NFU Mutual
  • Firstsource Solutions
  • PHS Group
  • Starling Bank
  • SSCL 

Customer Engagement 

  • Capital on Tap
  • CGI
  • Vibrant Energy Matters

Outsourcer of the Year

  • CGI
  • Firstsource Solutions
  • SSCL
  • The Consumer Helpline
  • Target

Customer Centre of the Year

  • Acquis Insurance
  • Starling Bank
  • Which?
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • Legal & General Direct Sales
  • SSCL
  • Capital on Tap

Ruth Meadows, Interim Director Ukraine Response, Welsh Government, said: “Wales has acted as a nation of sanctuary to the people of Ukraine, supporting the arrival of over 7000 people.

“The helpline provided by the Contact Centre has played a pivotal role in communicating with people before they travel to assist with their travel plans, monitoring their journey once they arrive in the UK and providing a source of advice once they have arrived.  This task has often been challenging for staff as they helped people escape the ravages of war. Welsh Government is grateful and proud of the critical role played by the team.”

Isabelle Bignall, Lead Officer at Cardiff Council added: “These hard-working, committed officers were asked to join the team with very little notice, having worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic as Tracers and Advisors for the Cardiff and Vale Test, Trace and Protect team.

“These officers didn’t hesitate: they wanted to help, working endless hours understanding the scheme, having training, working with interpreters and hearing harrowing stories from people trying to flee their war-torn country, many leaving family behind to fight.

“Some call handlers heard bombs being dropped. They were trauma trained but can anything really prepare you? I am so proud to be associated with this phenomenal service and I hope that their efforts are recognised at these prestigious awards.”

After receiving funding in November 2021, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Citizens Advice team launched a 10-strong Help Through Hardship team to guide the local community through this latest financial cost of living crisis.

Services include supporting clients with food vouchers, short-term emergency payments and hardship funds.

The team also runs a free helpline to help with long-term income maximisation and has partnered with mental health charity Mind Cymru, to refer clients in need directly to them.

In the year from March 2022, the team secured £3,158,590 in grants and payments – an average of £5,784 per client.

CACBG team leader Jenna Ridout said: “All our advisers are passionate about exploring all possible options for income maximisation for clients and understanding the magnitude of clients’ financial situations while investing time and resources into them.”

Arvato’s Swansea-based advice line has retained its Customer Service Excellence accreditation for a sixth consecutive year, having handled approximately 100,000 transactions of etickets, emails and telephone calls in the last year, with the team achieving a wait time of under five seconds.

Rhian Williams, Customer Services Account Manager at Arvato, said: “Every day brings a new challenge. I’m passionate that we provide excellent customer service and am proud that we achieve our goals as a team.

“I love being able to develop my skill set and enjoy the variation of the role and being able to work with different people across the business.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised for our hard work and dedication. We are thrilled to be finalists and proud of our excellent customer service.”

Deloitte’s internal helpline for partners and employees services a high-profile customer base with incredibly high customer expectations, requirements and wants.

The team provides a one-stop-shop of end-to-end support via webchat, email, phone and ServiceNow technology. Within the team there are SMEs who take ownership of certain topics or services, helping to train any new starters who join the team, acting as an escalation point, and liaising with external third-party service providers.

Rasalind Cobb, Senior Assistant at Deloitte, said: “I love working within this sector because it’s so rewarding to be able to give advice and help people solve problems.

“I enjoy the wide variety of topics that my team support with – it makes every day interesting. I have a really great team. We come from diverse backgrounds, so bring different experiences and perspectives to the service.

“We are excited to be shortlisted. It is a huge achievement and a nice recognition for the work we do every day.”

In June 2022, the British Red Cross approached Connect Assist to provide a support line for provision of cash assistance and SIM cards for Ukrainian refugees who had entered the UK within the previous 14 days.

Throughout the 12-week campaign, the challenge was considerable and British Red Cross’ timeline exceptionally tight, with an already unprecedentedly high volume of calls for its core service.

Connect Assist activated the helpline within seven days from contract signature to launch – a huge feat given the scope of the campaign. A team of 30 serviced 10am to 6pm service, seven days a week.

Within a week, the newly-formed team had handled over 2,000 calls, and were in daily correspondence with the client to ensure that expectations were met in terms of Service Level Agreement, quality of data capture with target abandonment rate of under 10%.

Martyn Cooper, Head of National Support Line, British Red Cross, said: “Connect Assist’s service manager was a delight to work with, bringing a calmness and positivity to the role, along with a true sense of collaboration and professionalism. It’s also clear to see that this attitude runs through his team.” During the extended nine-month period of the contract, Connect Assist answered 42,533 calls.

The headline sponsor of the Welsh Contact Centre Awards is Jomo People, who specialise in recruiting for the sector.

Sarah Hopkins, Co-Founder and Talent Partner at Jomo People, said: “The efforts of the teams shortlisted in this Helpline / Advice Line category is truly inspiring.

“My co-founder Katie Armitage and I have spent our entire careers working within the contact centre sector and therefore appreciate first-hand how challenging this past year has been, as well as how much awards like these matter for the morale of the teams who enter.

“This is a vibrant and rewarding sector which offers a wealth of different career opportunities.

“All five organisations and teams thoroughly deserve to be recognised as finalists and we’re thrilled to be offering our support again this year.”

Alongside headline sponsors Jomo People, Arvato, Calabrio, Capital on Tap, CGI, Deloitte, SSCL, Yolk Recruitment and Gower College are also sponsoring.