What does customer service mean to you?
As it’s the Institute of Customer Service’s National Customer Service Week we caught up with our Customer Experience Manager, Paul Roberts, to get his thoughts on what makes great customer service and how we deliver it.
Q1. Hi Paul, as you know this is the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) National Customer Service Week. Please tell us, why customer service is so important to NYES?
Great customer service is absolutely key to the success of our business and everyone within the organisation needs to play an active role. From the customer’s initial interaction with us, through the sales process and longer term, we work in partnership to ensure we are able to support them in delivering the very best outcomes for their pupils. At NYES, and a key part of my role, we work to ensure we create and continue to develop long lasting relationships that support our customers and create advocates for our service.
As a member of the institute, we receive excellent information which details what good customer service looks like and we often use this to continuously improve what we deliver to our customers including accessing research which shows there is a direct correlation between good customer service and good financial returns for shareholders/stakeholders.
Q2. But NYES isn’t an organisation which provides returns to shareholders, is it still important for NYES to provide great customer service?
Absolutely. Although we don’t operate to make a profit for shareholders, we are fully aware that we operate in an open market place and our customers have every right to expect excellent customer service from their suppliers, regardless of the type of organisation they are. What’s more, the surplus revenue we do generate is used to directly fund a range of essential frontline services delivered by North Yorkshire County Council; so our commitment to excellent customer service is two-fold – one to ensure we can generate this revenue and two, directly impacting on their delivery.
Q3. If NYES doesn’t operate to generate profits for its shareholders, what is its does it operate for?
Good question, we have a strong mission and vision which deals with this question but if I had to choose one it would be that
‘All children and young people should be happy, healthy, safe and achieving’.
I think this vision helps emphasise that we have a common goal with our customers. Our role is to support schools and other educational settings achieve their goals and by doing so, we achieve ours. In this respect, we see our customers very much as partners.
Q4. You have told us why customer service is important to NYES, but can you tell us what practical steps NYES has made to improve the customer service it provides?
In many ways, standards in customer service never stand still, things are always improving. Our personal approach is key. Our team of Relationship Managers are always available to support our growing customer base, and currently work with 1000 schools across the country. With regular contact, both face to face (although not so much recently!) meetings, and telephone and virtual communications, our customers know we are always there for them to help with any of the services we offer or to signpost towards the best solution for them.
Technology is playing a big part too. We are making extensive use of systems and platforms to improve our customer service. For example, we have recently improved our sales platform following customer feedback to provide easier access to our services and training. We have also responded to customer need by moving a wide range of our learning and CPD online as webinars. Our Health and Safety team has just launched the B-Safe portal, following in the footsteps of ESS and Health & Wellbeing where services can be accessed using online portals – ensuring we are able to deliver service provision at a time and ‘place’ best suited to our customers.
There are some principles which never change and I believe we have to find a balance between utilising technology to its full potential whilst ensuring we don’t lose the personal touch, which is so important to delivering great customer service.
Q5. AS the Customer Experience Manager for NYES, what’s the best part your role?
I love it when we received positive feedback from customers. It's particularly pleasing when a compliment comes after work has been undertaken following a customer comments detailing how we could improve our service. We had a great example of this earlier this week, when we received the following comment from a customer:
‘… Thank you, the ESS service has improved dramatically over the last couple of years!’
I know how much work the ESS team has put in to improving their service and I think this demonstrates how our partnership approach really works for us all.
Q6. Finally, can you give explain more about what you mean by the personal touch to customer service, perhaps giving an example?
From a personal point of view, I can think of many times when as a customer, I’ve been directed to website, yet still can’t find the answer I’m looking for. This is made even worse when you can’t find a telephone number to speak to a real life person. I’m very conscious that NYES don’t fall into this trap. I don’t think we can truly be partners without customers without being able to talk to someone. This is why we have staff on hand in our contact centre and each customer is assigned a Relationship or Sales Manager to support their organisation.
Moreover, many of our services are delivered on the ground by staff such as cleaner, cooks, caretakers etc. These staff are very much part of the school family and are at the forefront of NYES customer service.
When I think of great customer service, I personally don’t think of a website or a portal, I think of a former colleague, who sadly passed away recently. He was friendly, helpful and came to work with positive attitude every day – this approach really did make all the difference to each and every person that had the pleasure of working with him or stopping for a chat. Nothing complex - a friendly interaction, genuine care and making you feel as though you really mattered to him. And that’s it – showing someone you care and doing your very best to help.
It is my aim for NYES is to have all of our staff displaying these qualities and I know if we achieve this we’ll be well on our way to being an organisation which provides customer excellence - always.