Thoughts from the top: Evolving our Customer Service Centre

I set out at the beginning of the year that we intended to become an award winning customer service centre. Acting on feedback about our processes, our communications and even some unhelpful behaviours and attitudes we set about creating an action plan guided by the Institute of Customer Services ServiceMark framework. I’m really grateful to the 120 customers who recently completed an in-depth survey about us as part of the ServiceMark process. The ServiceMark initiative is all about our customer service team, we needed to break down some apathy and get motivated behind the fact that if our customers get let down then that is our moment to shine.

Feedback from our customer engagement forums last year suggested that our helpdesk functions could be more helpful, and that really struck a chord with us. Being helpful is our absolute core purpose as customer service professionals, being viewed as anything other than helpful is a major problem. This got us thinking about our intentions and behaviours which has culminated in a piece of work to define our guiding principles as a department. We wanted to create one culture of customer service that binds our various customer service teams together. Each principle is based on real customer feedback and has been developed with our front line teams, focusing us on behaviours such as reaching out to help, even when customers are angry (we call this hugging our haters), being human in an increasingly automated world, actively finding a way to help, being honest and seeing to it that a promise is a promise.

We’re just about ready to launch our new guiding principles and they help form an important link between our values as an organisation and our role specific competencies and responsibilities as customer service professionals. Implementing the principles and living by them, every day, forms an important part of our customer service improvement plan for ServiceMark.

Another really important part of our improvement plan is about making communication with us easier. Technology has its place, and we’re launching our customer service teams on Facebook Messenger, Twitter Message, Text Message and Webchat. Rather than phoning us or emailing us, for example, our customers can now send us a message on Facebook to rearrange an appointment or send a text message to report a fault, the details are all on our contact page on our website. We’re also having a long hard look at our style of communication, do we really use plain English? Clearing out all of the acronyms and system codes from our letters and emails will inevitably help!

Inviting our customers to engage with us to help with our future planning remains important. We have continued to host customer engagement forums this year and invite senior customer representatives to come in and meet openly our customer service teams. The positive feedback has been great, and the ongoing input into developing our systems and priorities is always appreciated.

As we head towards National Customer Service week in October I want to really nail down our next step improvements which will provide a single customer service culture and behavioural framework, simplicity in customer communications and technology that makes it easier for customers to talk to us. The last 12 months has been a great journey of improvement and confidence building for our customer service teams, now we have some momentum I want to make sure we keep pushing forward in our ambition to provide excellent support to our customers whenever they need our help.

Stuart Jones
Communications and Customer Service Director