We all notice great Customer Service. We love it when individuals go out of their way to deliver a positive experience, no matter what it takes. When we talk about Customer Focus, we are talking about the organisation more holistically. Do our leaders, systems and processes make it easy for individuals to deliver a great customer experience, or do they actually make it harder, meaning that our staff need to pull out a ‘super-human’ effort just to deliver our most basic offerings? In the not-for-profit sector, where our clients are our primary focus, there is a big opportunity to improve the experience we offer by looking beyond the front line.
Our recent work with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) revealed a workforce with a number of ‘stars’ in the contact centre and other customer facing roles, whose customer service was second to none. These guys were so good they won industry awards for the service they provided. However, behind the scenes, computer systems, work processes and management practices were hampering efforts to deliver the consistently good customer experiences we all strive for.
Fortunately the executive team realised the need to support these pockets of customer service excellence with an increased focus on ‘Customers’ right across the organisation. We helped by conducting an independent assessment (through observation, interviews and document reviews) to find out how customer-focused they really were.
In response to the findings, the QBCC found meaningful ways to (re)connect with those ‘customer’ groups that they deemed to be most important to their organisation, namely
As a result of these interactions, and with newfound empathy and openness across the organisation, the QBCC was quickly able to prioritise and focus on improving those parts of the experience that mattered most to customers, namely:
the timely management of building disputes,
the issuing and renewal of building contractor licences, and
the allocation of appropriate insurance for building works.
Not only that, but when the QBCC engaged customers in the conversation, they found they had very reasonable expectations, that could be met. As long as they were understood and incorporated into how services were designed and delivered.
What can social service providers take from this?
Like any customer, clients of social service providers are entitled to receive the best possible experience you can offer as you seek to alleviate their hardship, or support them through a challenging time. Whilst your front line service delivery staff may be in touch with client needs, it can be really valuable to assess whether there is a focus on ‘customers’ right across your organisation. Reviewing whether your whole organisation is customer-focused will ensure that your systems, processes and practices support your front line staff to achieve the best outcomes for your clients.
What are three things that social service providers can do to embrace a customer focus culture?
Complete a self-assessment against the 12 attributes that define a Customer Focus business.
Have a ‘who are we here for?’ conversation with a diverse cross-section of your organisation? Even though it might seem obvious at first, the QCOSS Provider workshops around the state have revealed that a number of factors can lead to different answers to this question.
Find a way to meaningfully connect with one or more of these ‘customer’ groups on a regular basis.
Other client and market focus resources on Community Door
Organisational development modules Module 4 - Leadership
Professional development resources on understanding and improving customer focus
Person centred policy and practice: what is person centred practice and how can you work within this framework?
Customer experience Network Space: this online community aims to gain a better understanding of customer experience and satisfaction
Strengthening NGO eTraining: free eTraining on topics such as responding holistically to clients, working within a legal and ethical framework and providing workplace mentoring.
VOICE templates for people using the service: templates such as a client service charter, case management plan, consent form, referral form, etc.
About Bartley Hassall
Bartley is the Business Design Principal at Brisbane’s Customer Focus Specialists, 3rdView Consulting. He is a sought-after facilitator, consultant, strategist, and business coach. Bartley has track record of helping organisations work through ‘stuck’ problems that are impacting business performance, through an increased focus on the experience of customers and employees.
Bartley works with a cross-section of interesting businesses to help them realise their core aspirations by (re)connecting with their customers, and their people. With 3rdView, Bartley has helped establish Brisbane’s Customer Experience Community. This group comes together regularly to share stories of both individual customers experiences, and the efforts of organisations to improve their Customer Focus.