Softline Pastel, developer of South Africa’s leading accounting and business software, is a nominee for the second year in a row in the annual international Contact Centre World Awards run by ContactCentre – the global conference, research, and online magazine provider for the contact centre industry.

Featured in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) section of the competition, Pastel is the only South African company to have received nominations in multiple categories. The nominations are:
* Best in Customer Service;
* Best Outbound Campaign (outbound sales);
* Best Community Spirit; and
* Best Contact Centre (51 – 249 agents).
In 2007, Pastel was nominated for Best Contact Centre Leader, also in the EMEA section.
“The nominations reflect the fact that the Pastel contact centre is unique in many ways,” says Tanya Miranda, director of Softline Pastel’s 145-agent support and registration contact centre handling upwards of 50 000 calls a month.
“For one thing, our agents don’t simply read off the screen pre-scripted solutions to customer problems. Most of them are so qualified on one or more of our products that, should they leave the company, they could operate as certified Pastel installers. So they are equipped to use their own initiative to solve both product and business problems for customers.
“We also recruit our agents differently. In most other companies, agents are seldom trained for more than three weeks and they don’t have to pass all their assessments. Our agents must pass all assessments with 90% first time in order to join the Pastel contact centre team, and their training lasts a minimum of eight weeks. We apply extremely strict criteria to the process of matching personality profiles to job profiles and we inculcate team-based attitudes from the outset through buddy programmes within the general training.”
Pastel is one of very few organisations to have a contact centre with its own, dedicated, customer care division – and is relentless in running both customer satisfaction surveys as well as having a dedicated quality assurance team.
“If any customer phones us more than five times in a month, a member of the relevant product support team phones back to find out whether we have a service quality issue or the customer needs more training,” Miranda says. “In addition, we run a quarterly online survey in which our customers are asked to rate our service. And, our quality assurance team makes between 700 and 900 calls a month to customers, checking on their satisfaction with the contact centre. So, we’re very certain when we claim, for instance, an average of 94% on first call resolution.”
For the Best Contact Centre nomination, Pastel was rated on having the most modern contact centre technology, allowing any type of customer contact – phone, email, or web – to be addressed according to the time it appears on the system rather than having telephone contacts dominate agent attention. The system also triggers outbound calls for agents in response to contacts logged by the system after hours. Miranda says this facility enables Pastel to be unusually proactive in getting back to customers.
The Contact Centre World Award nomination for best outbound campaign was based on Pastel’s combination of a printed postcard mailing offering a 50% discount on Pastel software and phased follow-up calls to customers. More than 40% of the targeted customers opted for the upgrade.
Softline Pastel’s national sales director, Bridget du Toit says:” The results far exceeded our expectations and are a direct consequence of astute use of technology to, firstly, show us which customers to target and, secondly, link the print campaign with a telephonic campaign in ways that showed us where to focus our follow-ups.”
The nomination for best community spirit was based on Pastel’s inclusive approach to getting agents involved in both raising money for charities of their choice and providing manpower for empowerment projects. Money is raised entirely from within the ranks of Pastel employees and not from the public.