Case Study - Arriva Buses

Arriva Buses

The Challenge

Arriva run a 50 person call centre in Luton that deals with all of the phone calls for the UK. The call centre takes enquiries from all over the country. In order to provide the greatest concentrations of knowledge and highest service standards the centre dedicates staff regionally into teams covering South East, Midlands, North West and Yorkshire. In addition they deal with calls for ATSL non emergency patients transit services.

The call centre averages 1000 inward calls a day. This can rise steeply in extreme weather conditions such as snow and its busiest periods is August to September when students purchase services and then need to understand them and correct any misunderstandings or mis-purchases. The centre deals with enquiries and complaints. Given the nature of the calls being about public transport and the relative urgency of the calls a proportion of the calls can be aggressive and stressful.

Calm People were invited in to discuss their areas of expertise and how they may impact upon employee wellbeing.

During the discussion the main issues discussed were

  • Dealing with stress both in and out of the workplace.
  • Team members behaviour and its impact upon others
  • Passive aggression in the call centre and boundaries
  • Dealing with aggressive customers

It was agreed that the two main issues that were of a priority were stress and dealing with conflict.


The Solution

Dealing with difficult and challenging people

This workshop recognises that simply because an individual is better at dealing with aggressive and challenging customers it does not reduce the number of aggressive and challenging people they have to deal with. Whilst skill improvement can increase confidence it does not stop the emotional attrition of dealing with difficult and challenging people day in and day out. This workshop combines essential resilience tools which combined with self understanding increases the individual’s ability to empathise and remain resilient. In addition we build in tried and tested techniques and strategies that build upon your existing customer service skills. Our experience tells us this overall combination to be most effective.

A 2 day workshop with a minimum 1 week break built in between each day to allow delegates to assimilate what they learn on day one and review as part of day 2.



Day 1

  • Understanding Anger including
    • Triggers for conflict
    • Self esteem
    • Stress
    • Criticisms and judgements
  • Dealing with emotions including
    • Emotions & feelings
    • Communicating feelings
    • Healthy assertive communication
    • Listening with empathy
  • Commitments to implement learning


Day 2

  • Review commitments made and learning from implementing in to life and work
  • Conflict at work and the roles we choose to take.
  • Diffusing techniques for aggressive customers including
    • Empathic listening and reflecting
    • Soaking it up
    • Pacing and matching
    • Assertive telephone techniques
    • The Bill of rights for the call centre adviser



A series of the workshops described were delivered and initial feedback from the delegates was really positive

A selection of comments is below –

You have helped me realise all about myself. Thank you. I have found Stepping out of Stress to be very beneficial.”

“This programme helped me understand my emotions and why I feel emotional at times and helped me understand how to deal with my stress.”

“I now know how to not take things personally.”

“Matching customers and bringing them down safely helped me the most”

“I understand myself and my customer more now.”


How do you measure impact?

Whenever an organisation buys into the Calm People way we ask if we can measure results after the workshops.

We are well aware of the halo effect that can cause positive feedback to be given at the end of a workshop on the delegate feedback forms. This coupled with the human desire not to offend the facilitator means that scores immediately after a workshop are not reliable other than for measuring the overall experience.

At Calm people, where organizations allows us, we survey delegates 3 months after the workshop across 11 statements which they score how they were pre and post workshop. This enables us to produce definable data and prove that their is more than simply a feel good factor to our work.


Outcome data – Taken 3 months after the workshops

The data below is based upon a scoring system of 1-10 with each delegate asked to give their score pr-workshop and post workshop for each statement. Even a 0.5 point improvement on a given area can be considered a strong. This provides effective gap improvement analysis, demonstrates value for money and also emphasises the long term effects of the workshop.


QuestionAverage Improvement
I recognise how my moods influence my work0.55
I understand how stress affects me at work and outside of work0.82
I am aware of the choices I have in dealing with things that stress me out1.36
I understand how my self-esteem affects my moods.0.55
I understand how I can take care of my own self esteem in a healthy manner1.91
I feel comfortable expressing my feelings at work0.18
I have ways to calmly deal with conflict1.00
I feel comfortable expressing my feelings at home0.55
I feel able to deal with challenging situations0.45
I recognise my judgemental and critical side and know how to avoid letting it affect my relationships with others1.18
I know how to stop taking things personally1.73
I have the necessary skills to take care of my own emotional health and wellbeing2.00

Notes to the data

·     Using this type of scoring improvements of even half an average point above an individual’s personal baseline score are significant.
·     These post course scores were taken almost 3 months after the workshops ran. This is particularly significant since the major worry with any intervention or workshop is how long the impact lasts. I’m proud of these.
·   The sample is smaller than we would have liked. In the end getting Office manaer to keep chasing people would have been a waste of her energy and time. It still gives a good picture. Sample size 11 out of 24 delegates


Return on investment

For emotional resilience work measuring a direct return on investment is difficult because other initiatives that are concurrently being run will have an impact on areas that improve. These workshops directly affect the following as demonstrated –

  • Individual’s ability to deal with stress.
  • Individual’s ability to take responsibility for their wellbeing
  • Individual’s ability to deal with difficult emotions
  • Individual’s self esteem

Other areas that are directly impacted by these workshops but in conjunction with other initiatives are –

  • Absence & Illness
  • Staff Turnover
  • Employee morale and staff engagement


Further evidence of senior management buy in to the returns they see from these workshops is the fact that we are invited back each year to deliver more workshops to new starters