What made you choose to go for Customer First?
The statements outlined in the Customer First Process seemed to be an extremely comprehensive approach to identifying the different areas of our business and the types of relationship which we build maintain and constantly review with our customers. I identified these statements as the fundamental tenants of reinforcing our customer led approach within the business, something we take extraordinarily seriously. Customer First accreditation seemed the logical first step to ensuring we had third party confirmation that we were on the right track and from there our goal was to build on this with continuous improvement around these key areas.
What did you hope to get out of the Customer First accreditation?
Primarily the recognised seal of approval from the experts and then as detailed above the platform on which to build towards a gold standard on ‘customer first’ approaches within our business.
How did you and your team feel about the assessment?
In advance the team were kept well informed about the process and our organisations intentions as well as the importance of the accreditation. Internal interviews were conducted across the business as we attempted an internal audit of our processes that directly impacted on our customer.
During the process feedback suggests that the interviews took place in a manner that was thorough, fair and empathic
Post process – on achieving the accreditation everybody was extremely delighted
After the assessment, the trainees said that their concerns were unfounded. The interviews just feel like a natural conversation. Our assessor, Mike, was excellent at putting people at ease.
How long did the process take from initial enquiry to accreditation?
We signed up in September 2012, flirted with accreditation in the New Year and finally went down the diagnostic route in May 2013, with our assessment finally on the 3rd June. So about 9 months in total.
How did you and the team feel when you were told you were compliant?
Everybody recognised the importance of the accreditation as well as the importance from a business perspective of being able to shout about it from the proverbial rooftops and so everybody was ecstatic about the achievement.
What recommendations and feedback did you get from your assessor?
Our assessor seemed really impressed with not only the work we do as an organisation but also the emphasis that we place on the customer experience and journey. Although there is a huge focus on the customer and desire to please we needed to capture this in a more concise statement of intent. Suggestions were made of a service charter to simply outline a service promise.
Also the assessor was pleased with the high levels of feedback information gathered at every opportunity and the way it was then used to generate constant improvement.
We have taken on board the comments about our performance review system and asked the team for their input on how the system could be improved. These suggestions are currently being reviewed to be incorporated in to the system.
How has the feedback and recommendations impacted on your organisation?
We have begun developing very simple customer promises and value statements for our organisation. We are about to roll out an ethics policy so that both staff and customer understand our values as an organisation and know what to expect.
Have your customers commented on any recognisable changes or improvements to your service delivery? And if so, what have they said?
I don’t believe that we have had any yet but we are in the process of formalising some of the more noticeable changes.
How have you and your staff benefitted from going through the Customer First journey?
The Customer First journey forced us to think about our organisation and about how our customers saw us and how we wanted to be seen by our customers. It brought us closer together as we discussed internal processes, empowering individuals within the organisation to raise important issues and make little changes to the way we do things that in the general scheme had a huge impact on the customer journey even if the customer themselves didn’t notice it. The benefit here was we began focusing on consistency which in turn improve efficiency.
Within your industry, what challenges do you face and how has Customer First supported them?
The main challenge is a growing trend of competition and the lack of awareness of quality standards and the technical aspects of the work we do. Clients tend to look for the cheapest providers. We are not the cheapest and not the most expensive and this is sometimes a difficult message to get across to both existing and potential customers. Customer First is about engaging with our clients and demonstrating value for money in the servicethey get and the after care that is available from a very experienced team of professionals. Having the accreditation as well speaks volumes for how important the customer journey is to us.
What recommendations or Top Tips would you give other organisations just starting out on their Customer First journey?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, the diagnostic route was very beneficial so it is worth considering as even if there are developmental areas it will focus your attentions from an early stage.Speak to a good cross section of your company and encourage honest internal dialogue particularly from areas of the business that are not always vocal. You will be surprised what you learn.
Why would other organisations in your sector benefit from the Customer First process?
It is a great tool for bringing clarity to others about what you already know about your business and brings clarity to you on what you don’t know about your business.