“Customer First assessment has been the talk of the place. Our staff and volunteers have been delighted by the outcome given the toughness of the assessment. We will firmly embed Customer First in everything we do in order to support our customers in making positive lifestyle decisions” Ashford Place - formerly: Cricklewood Homeless Concern
Who Are You?
(Now known as Ashford Place) Cricklewood Homeless Concern has been running for over 30 years, we help not only the homeless population but also any other vulnerable or disadvantaged group across London and our local community through a range of specialist welfare and social programmes.
What is Your Customer First Status?
We achieved Customer First for the first time in 2013 and are proud to be the first homeless agency awarded with the Standard.
Why Did You Go For Customer First?
To verify our approaches to customer service through a nationally recognised quality standard
To review our policies, procedures and methods to make sure they were customer centric
In a challenging financial and social environment we wanted to make sure we are seen as a quality driven organisation
What Were The Benefits of Being Assessed?
We have taken our assessor’s recommendations and already worked them into our Customer Involvement Strategy
The self-reflection process before assessment has led to improvements, for example the introduction of a Customer Advisory Group
Staff and volunteers have all got involved and have been able to reflect on their work to consider customers as a whole which is central to the support equation
Why would other organisations in your sector benefit from ‘Putting the Customer First®’?
In tough and challenging times it is important to not lose sight of those who are important. The Customer First Standard gives an objective view and external recognition of your services, demonstrating to your funders/commissioners that you lead by putting your customers first.
Cricklewood Homeless Concern, now known as Ashford Place, was established in 1983 by local residents concerned about the then new phenomenon of street homelessness. During the early years the charity was run by volunteers, today it employs 20 staff, and 32 volunteers, and works proactively with statutory partners such as Brent PCT, Brent Council, DWP, and training providers but also now and of equal importance, the local community. The centre offers a range of services, such as housing advice & support, drug and alcohol day treatment and training & employability programmes for homeless and disadvantaged people.
For over 30 years CHC has been making a difference to homeless people by providing services that meet their housing and support needs. Today its client group has expanded to cover not only the homeless population but also any other vulnerable/disadvantaged group across London and the local community. For CHC, Putting the Customer First® is a message that they truly believe in so it was a perfect match to be working towards the Standard.
We interviewed Danny Maher, CEO of Cricklewood Homeless Concern and asked him to tell us about their Customer First experience:
We think we do a reasonable job when it comes to putting customers at the centre of the support relationship, but equally, we know that this is subjective and may not necessarily be true. Therefore we needed an expert, external assessment that is recognised nationally by our funders and supporters to verify what we do well and enable us to examine improvements to the best effect for our customers.
It took us 7 months to gain accreditation; a lot of internal searching took place between staff and volunteers of our processes, policies and methods. In a busy front line organisation, activities such as this can sometimes feel unnecessary and cumbersome, but staff and volunteers quickly understood its significance and wholeheartedly took up the challenge. It was reassuring, when evaluating the 30 Statements, for staff and volunteers to note that they were in fact fully compliant with them ”
The tough and changing climate in our economy affects many aspects of our work, for example, employment, benefit and housing fields. Customer First has given us recognition that we are a quality organisation and as such this may influence decisions by funders/commissioners to support us. We have evaluated what works well and what may need introducing to make our service even slicker as a result of the feedback and development plans put in place by our assessor. We have integrated the suggestions for continuous improvement into our Customer Involvement Strategy with a diary of activity and review dates. We have introduced a Customer Advisory Group and are fully embedding the Customer First principles into everything we do from here on in, ready for our Customer First review in two years time.
Our Top Tips for Approaching Customer First
The team at CHC can give themselves a much deserved pat on the back. Through the toughness of the assessment plus working in a busy environment we have managed to review our service delivery and recognise that what we do, we do well and that we make a real impact to the lives of our customers. ‘Putting the Customer First®’ is an essential message to remember because we are all customers and should never forget why we are here. The process really helps you to focus on this. Our Top Tips to You? Don’t be put off getting started, the seemingly endless collection of evidence can be overwhelming but the support you get from Customer First staff can help you to get over this and look beyond the papers and procedures to get you understanding what it means to be a customer.