As a provider of managed infrastructure IT services, it’s fair to say that our customers trust us with their ‘crown jewels’, because we look after some of the most important elements of their business. Whether it’s a commercial website, an ERP system or Microsoft Exchange, any service issue would not only cause major disruption to their business but also have the potential for significant financial and reputational loss.

Future perfect
Technology can – and does – go wrong and when it does, the customer’s basic expectation is that this will be resolved to contracted service levels. For us the most important thing is the way we communicate with our customers during challenging times and for us that has to be more than simply providing regular updates. It has to be about empathy and putting our customers first – always.

Setting the scene
We’re an innovative, rapidly growing organisation. Over the last few years we have acquired and then integrated three businesses in disparate locations with different technology propositions, systems and processes – and probably the biggest challenge of all – very different cultures and approaches to delivering customer service.

Creating the programme: Phase 1
With the support of Rocket Consultancy who specialise in organisational development, we set about scoping Phase 1 of a programme designed to help us embed great customer service into our DNA. It’s no secret that engaged, motivated and empowered employees who enjoy what they do have an enthusiasm that can really impact the customer experience in a positive way. We wanted a programme that was meaningful for everyone, linked to our core values and relevant to our culture.

With this in mind there were 3 key questions we wanted to answer:

  • What are our current levels of customer empathy?
  • How does it feel to work at Adapt?
  • How do we define our culture?

Employee audit
To help us answer these questions, Rocket Consultancy spent time with all of our customer facing teams to get a real feel for how they interact with our customers today, gauge customer empathy levels, uncover what’s working well and where our challenges and opportunities for improvement lie.   In addition, the whole Adapt team was invited to participate in an employee survey to which we had a strong response rate of 75%. This gave us powerful insight into how we might improve our employee, and ultimately customer, engagement.

Creating meaningful values
My precious word count doesn’t allow me to spend too much time sharing the results other than to say they highlighted a number of key themes including the need for more regular and effective internal communication, the definition of a clear vision and value set and improved induction, development and recognition programmes. We’ve collated and shared the results and used them to build a simple but effective value set – Think Customer, Be Exceptional, Succeed Together. We’ve also launched a formal Recognition Programme aligned to our values to reward employees for overachieving in these areas

Phase 2
Phase 2 of the programme was to ask our customers to share their experiences with us. Rather than rely on the standard Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire, Rocket Consultancy carried out in-depth interviews with a selection of key customers on our behalf. This was very well received and again gave us some really clear insight – you could say gold dust. The survey asked how it feels to be an Adapt customer. As you’d expect, highlighted some challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Phase 3
So on to Phase 3 and how we use what we’ve learned to truly put our Customers First!

Our new values and the feedback we have received from our customers gives us a solid foundation for creating a compelling vision and Customer Charter that everyone in our business connects with. We’ve created a community of Customer Champions from different teams across our three office locations who are working with the wider Leadership Team on these initiatives. These individuals are ideally placed to lead by example and act as true customer service evangelists across our business with a passion for delivering great service

We are also investing in a series of management workshops designed to equip our line managers to translate the vision and charter into what it means for their teams and how to set, measure and manage customer service-based performance objectives. And finally, we are investing in customer service training for all. One size does not fit all so we are working with Rocket to build a syllabus relevant to specific teams that builds on the feedback from their face to face interviews with our colleagues in Phase 1.

Looking ahead
The Adapt Customer First Programme is evolving but we are confident in our approach and are already beginning to see the benefits of investing in our people, improving communication and embedding a much more customer-centric focus. We will measure our progress via a follow up employee survey in early 2015, our ongoing NPS programme and a repeat set of interviews with our customers in June next year – you never know, you might just see us at next year’s Customer Experience Awards!

Nickey BramleyNicky Bramley
Currently Head of Customer Service at Adapt, Nicky Bramley has more than 20 years experience in the technology sector. She has a demonstrable track record of leading teams to deliver against clear plans and objectives and has a genuine passion for first class customer service and operational excellence.

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