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Home Retail Group: Customer experiences worthy of a market leader

A chieving more with less during digital transformation


  • HomeAgent CSAT exceeds in-house in some areas
  • Extended hours of service and coverage of unsocial hours
  • Increased productivity, flexibility and resilience
  • Agile support during strategic transformation
  • Reduced cost to serve
  • Access to world-class homeworking technology
  • HRG employee enablement to work from home too

Better performance in a rapidly changing world

Enhancing the customer experience is the driving force behind Home Retail Group’s (HRG) contact centre strategy. However, like most retailers, HRG recognised that they needed to find ways to deliver rewarding customer experiences in an increasingly digital world without increasing the cost to serve.

The channels being used by customers for sales and service were evolving. HRG knew that to compete effectively it had to educate customers to 'go digital' to accelerate its transition to a digital retailer, yet was acutely aware of the requirement to provide cost-effective service for customers when they wanted or needed to speak to them – often with complex requirements.

As part of its 'contact centre of the future' initiative HRG evaluated the potential for homeworking. The group considered flexible working hours, infrastructure costs, new, best in breed technologies, and sustainable access to skills. Although homeworking made absolute sense, there were concerns regarding the security, productivity, training, and management support for HomeAgents. So, after a review of market providers, HRG appointed Sensée to pilot a homeworking operation for 12 months to determine if the risks were worth the rewards.

"Although we strongly believed that homeworking would deliver what we needed, we had to be sure that our concerns would not become major stumbling blocks. In the context of our digital transformation, we needed to test whether homeworking would deliver the flexibility and resource profile we needed to serve a widening customer demographic and whether it was something, over time, that we could implement ourselves," explains Paul Downham, Director of HRG's contact centres.

To do or not to do?

Very quickly, Sensée recruited, trained and employed 30 dedicated full time employees to kick start the pilot. The team integrated its proprietary technology systems with HRG’s own systems and made sure that HRG was comfortable with all aspects of control, security and operational visibility.

Flexibility was key. Sensée was able to provide agents exclusively from 10-12am, 2-4pm and 6-8pm - the hours for which HRG needed them. This resourcing flexibility immediately removed a staggering 3-4 hours per day of idle time per agent.

Within 3 months it was clear that Sensée’s HomeAgents were proving to be a valuable asset and exceeding the initial KPIs – and even outperforming HRG’s internal teams in quality measures. By the end of the 12 months, the team had trebled in size and taken on three new campaigns, including 24/7 activity and email as a channel. It was so successful that HRG felt compelled to offer the opportunity to homework to its own contract centre staff, using Sensée’s specialist technology.

Today, Sensée provides 90 of its own HomeAgents to support HRG and enables 30 of the company’s own agents to use its homeworking technology platform so that they can work partly at home and partly in the office.

"Sensée has helped us unlock the agility and tap into the skills we need to underpin our transformation and deliver great – yet cost-effective – service to our customers. Given the highly competitive market we operate in, this is gold dust," continues Paul.

About Home Retail Group

Home Retail Group is the UK’s leading home and general merchandise retailer, bringing together some of the UK’s most recognisable retail brands. With sales of £5.7bn in the last financial year, the company continues to maintain its leading positions despite a challenging market environment. Argos is the UK's leading multi-channel retailer and Homebase is a leading home-enhancement retailer. The exclusive Habitat brand gives customers greater choice with premium quality and contemporary styling, as well as some best-selling iconic designs. The Financial Services business makes it easy for customers to buy the products they want.

About Sensée

Sensée unlocks significant benefits by transforming the way companies work. Our multi-channel customer management services, delivered by highly skilled home agents, give our clients unprecedented agility to respond to rapidly changing market conditions, significant operational cost reductions and exceptionally high levels of customer satisfaction. The leading homeworking outsourcer, Sensée employs c. 700 home agents to serve a prestigious client base that includes Argos, Aviva, Eurostar, PhotoBox, RAC and Rank Interactive.