I recently wrote an article called The Customer Contract.

It looked at the importance of meeting customer expectations.

And how putting that at the heart of everything we do, is an oft-cited but well-founded strategy in business and government.

I also talked about our recently revised customer-care standards at Wrexham Council.

It spells out what customers can expect from us, and the behaviours we expect from employees when dealing with enquiries.

But here’s a thought. What if our employees aren’t on-message?

What if we’ve got a shiny new policy that nobody knows about – or understands how it effects them in their day-to-day work?

If that’s the case, we’re in trouble.

Because making sure employees understand your customer-care standards – and the expectations it places on them – is a critical part of the game.

At Wrexham Council, I’m glad to say we’ve thought about that part of the equation long and hard.

And we’re taking several approaches to making sure employees understand how they can deliver the standards we’ve set out.

 

1. setting goals

Like many organisations, we run a staff appraisal scheme, where each employee reviews their performance with their manager, and sets goals for the coming year.

We’ve revamped the scheme so it’s more tightly focused on our council plan – which includes various customer-related objectives.

It’s a chance to get across the importance of customer service to each individual, and work it into their goals for the coming year.

 

2. providing role models

It’s also important that employees have role models.

That means managers and leaders living by our customer-care standards and applying them to everyday work situations.

If your manager doesn’t care, you won’t care. Lets be honest.

So we’re reaching out to managers and asking them to take the time to really understand the new policy.

 

3. sharing examples

If appraisals are the systematic, measured approach to helping staff deliver customer care standards, sharing best practice is the more emotional (inspirational?) one.

Capturing examples and putting them out there for staff to see can have a real impact. Especially when they involve colleagues on the front-line of service delivery.

 

4. celebrating the good

Praise from your manager is nice. Praise from peers and customers is even better.

They don’t have to recognise what we do. They don’t feel obliged in the same way managers – keen to motivate us – might feel obliged.

So when they go to the effort to highlight something positive we’ve done, that’s a good feeling.

We encourage staff to highlight great work by colleagues, and make sure we celebrate compliments from customers too.

We do this through our employee awards scheme – called ‘WOW.’

Recent nominations include a member of our street-scene team, who came to the aid of an elderly lady collapsed in the street.

And our contaminated land team who – despite appalling weather conditions – removed lead-contamination from 19 gardens in one of our villages.

 

5. facing up to the bad

On the flip side, you can’t let bad customer service go unchallenged.

Complaints are investigated thoroughly, and if a customer or employee feels we’re getting something wrong – be it around service design or an individual incident – we encourage them to voice that concern.

It’s no good brushing the bad stuff under the carpet.

Sometimes, it’s down to a miss-alignment between customer expectations and the service on offer. In other words, expectations are too high and need to be managed.

In other cases, it can be a simple, one -off mistake. Or a lack of customer-care awareness among certain employees.

And occasionally, it can be down to individuals being deliberately inappropriate with customers. It happens.

The important thing is to get to the bottom of the complaint, and resolve it.

 

So there you go.

Nothing earth-shattering, but if you want colleagues to buy into customer care values in your organisation, it’s a starter for 10.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, look out for The Customer Contract – Part 3, when I’ll be looking at the customer side of the bargain.