Excellence in Customer Service Delivery
TRAINING CASE STUDY: Bristol City Council (BCC)
Bristol City Council (BCC) is the largest employer in the city, with more than 16,000 employees providing over 900 different services to local residents, businesses and visitors. It embraced a Customer Excellence Programme with a vision to make customers the highest priority, developing positive relationships, promoting choice & delivering quality services. The desire to strengthen local democracy drives the need to create a better relationship between the council and the people it serves. A variety of reviews and surveys were carried out in order to establish how well the Council was meeting these objectives. The review of access to services, citizen panel survey, staff satisfaction survey and audit commission inspection all showed that there was significant room for improvement, and so the council set out to find a partner to help them improve. They identified two criteria for success:
- An improvement in Citizen & user opinions of the council, by providing access to services that people want & value.
- Seamless/departmentalised service delivery, where all members of staff provide the same high standard of service, no matter how, where or when the customer accesses that service.
These would be measured using the following sources for comparison to monitor improvements or identify excellent service delivery
- Corporate Performance Management
- Citizen Panel Surveys
- Staff Satisfaction Survey
- Audit commission inspections
- KL169 figures
Following a tender process, Nelson training was appointed to take up the challenge. Their dynamic, interactive approach, with drama-based simulations of real situations offered an excellent way to provide training that was engaging, practical and relevant. In addition to the training, the council also used mystery shoppers to evaluate service, and identify areas requiring improvement.
The project started with designing and developing a set of corporate service standards. They were the foundation & underpinned the entire training programme, and allowed the team to identify specific behaviours that could be improved through training, and knowledge gaps that needed to be filled. Employees had raised the issue that they had limited access to information on the full range of services available, meaning they were often unable to signpost customers to further help, or to access support for themselves. A staff handbook, called Finding Your Way, was written, and made available in hard copy and electronic forms. Staff focus groups provided further background on their barriers to excellent customer service delivery.
A set of objectives was drawn up, under the umbrella of ‘Do Differently’ and encompassed:
- Take ownership, be the customers champion, aim to exceed expectations
- Deal with aggressive or challenging situations in a safe but positive manner
- Check before transferring; ensure the customer is passed onto the right person/service first time.
- Fully understand the enquiry and aim to resolve it immediately. If not possible, provide alternative options/signposting
- Remember body language and tone of voice; make every contact a quality contact
- Communicate in a language and format that is suited to the customer’s requirements
- Be polite, friendly and treat all customers with equal respect
- Ask questions and challenge current systems.
In addition to the pre-training focus groups and the actual training events the programme included the following elements:
- Employee behaviour was evaluated pre- and post-training, and records of progress kept.
- Monthly reviews of the programme were held.
- Information gathered (e.g. on flip charts) during the training were retained and used to develop best practice.
- Post-course questionnaires and quizzes were used to measure retention of learning.
The course was successfully delivered to many groups of employees, and the total programme came in significantly under (by more than 15%) the original cost estimate.
It was enthusiastically received, with
98% of participants giving positive feedback, and 86% undertaking to work differently. 90% of managers confirmed that it had had a positive impact on their staff, with 88% stating that it had helped them to overcome service barriers. Mystery Shopper evaluations were also very positive, showing substantial improvement in both telephone and face-to-face encounters.
Results from the Citizen Panel showed marked improvements in the areas of: ease of access; ability to contact the right person; getting the right information; and above all, satisfaction with the way complaints were dealt with.
Results from the staff satisfaction survey were equally impressive and included; improvement in meeting training needs; increased ability to carry out their job; more confidence in Senior Management; reduction in being critical of the organisation as an employer.
The training was clearly successful in assisting the organisation to achieve its objectives:
- Uniting the organisation in its customer focus approach. All services are now either achieving or aiming for the same goal/targets.
- Consistency across the organisation has greatly improved.
- Both training & mystery shopping (which also tests equal access) have made a huge impact on the council’s culture. Service Units have already & continue to make real changes to meet/exceed the CCFSS.
- Councils receive money for achieving ‘First Point of Contact Resolution’ targets. This is also one of the CCFSS. BCC hit their target and consequently received nearly £400,000 in funding.
Other authorities have spoken about using BCC as their template for excellence in Customer Service.