Customer Service: Ambitions

It’s been three months now since our Customer Service Centre in Liverpool set out their ambition to work towards ServiceMark accreditation by the Institute of Customer Service.

For the first month or so I really challenged the team on ‘why’ they wanted to move towards becoming an accredited centre. I’d walk around the office asking people at random ‘why?’, and I received all sorts of answers.

Here are my favourites:

  • Because we want to improve our service
  • Because our customers deserve the best
  • Because we deserve it too

I asked a few of the team to explain it to our customers on social media. The response we received was a mix of support (we’re glad you want to improve) and disapproval (is this a joke? You guys suck!).

Ok, so I understand that most people on our social media channels are there to complain because we’ve let them down in some way, and I need to take that into account.

I understand that one of our customers walked into the Institute of Customer Service office and told them not to give us the accreditation. I’d argue that is exactly why we should be aiming for accreditation.

Anyway, I learned from our customers that we’ve not explained very well that ServiceMark is just for our Customer Service Centre, not our operations on site.

We’re talking about our telephone advisors, our housing allocations staff, our complaint management teams, our regional prime helpdesk and our local customer service centres.

I’ve also learned that all of the angst we received, typically aimed at operational delivery, is 100% in housing. No negative feedback is being given about the support we provide to the Regional Prime Estate where our customers work (this is four out of our five contracts).

So, two big themes:

  • It’s all about housing
  • The Customer Service Centre staff are actually doing OK (but we want to do better).

Based on customer feedback, the team have drawn up an action plan. This is how the ServiceMark framework supports our continuous improvement in a very structured way.

First we gain feedback (a formal survey of staff and customers), then benchmark ourselves against the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, and finally implement an action plan to improve our weaknesses.

We shared our action plan with the Institute of Customer Service last week. Apart from a few minor suggestions, they seem pretty happy with what we are trying to accomplish.

There are 83 actions on our plan, but here are the headlines:

  • Create more meaningful customer engagement through our Customer Engagement Forum and on our social media channels
  • Support operational improvements by providing excellent customer insight
  • Develop ‘guiding principles’ for our customer service staff, create a culture of ‘helpfulness’ and measure it through customer satisfaction at an individual level
  • Invest in digital customer service channels, talking to customers on every channel they want to talk to us on
  • Get our processes right and customer communications clear
  • Improve our product knowledge – be experts in what our contracts deliver
  • Manage a truly effective complaints management process
  • Clearly communicate the ‘you said, we did’ with our customers and our customer service staff

It feels good to have a plan.

The whole team get together every Friday morning for our ServiceMark Scrum to discuss progress against actions and activities.

Individual ownership and empowerment sits at the heart of what we’re trying to do, so I am continuing to encourage the team to make videos to introduce themselves in person and explain what they’re working on to improve.

We’ll keep on posting these videos on our social media channels and we welcome any and all feedback.

Stuart Jones, Customer Service and Communications Director, CarillionAmey

Tweet me @StuartJonesCA