Helping develop a deeper understanding of customer
West Lothian Council, UK Council of the Year 2006 averages 6,000
calls per week through its Service Centre, assisting customers with
information and advice on issues ranging from household repairs and
council tax payment to anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse
West Lothian Council asked VISION to work with their Service
Centre team to help evaluate and improve their call handling and
customer service. Management recognised that advisors had received
limited training in handling a potentially broader range of
customer requests that had come about as a result of the creation
of a multi-service contact centre. Management was also concerned
that measuring success and managing performance using a
'traditional' balanced scorecard would not drive the behaviour they
wanted from their advisors and that this would impact customer
"By having my calls played back to me I now know what I'm
actually doing well and not so well so I know where I need to
improve." Kevin, Advisor.
Over a 6 month period VISION proposed and delivered three pieces
of work, all based on its Learning Team approach. By coaching
advisors to engage the customer in a 'real' conversation and make
promises on each call, advisors began to realise that they were
able to deliver a higher level of service. This resulted in an
eight-fold increase in unsolicited thank-you's to Service Centre
staff. Listening for concerns rather than simply reacting to
requests helped advisors form the kind of bond that led to real
understanding of customer needs - especially for those customers
requiring to speak with Contact Centre staff on an on-going
By the end of the pilot advisors demonstrated such a significant
shift in behaviour - from that of query handler and request
administrator to trusted adviser and customer advocate - that
VISION was asked to engage in two further similar phases of work.
The most recent was the delivery of a skills transfer program with
a specially appointed Learning and Development Coach who will take
responsibility for on-going delivery and sustainability of Learning
Teams throughout the 85 person Contact Centre.
Value Added Since engaging with VISION the
Contact Centre are making the shift towards:
A new way of working together: Advisors listen
to calls in groups in a way that lets them learn from each other
and 70+% of advisors participating in the pilot programs agreed
that they had changed as a result of working together in Learning
"I have definitely learnt from listening to other peoples
calls - I am more aware of what I am saying and how I am saying
A new way of thinking about
work: Traditional training focuses on product and service
regulations. By drawing the advisors attention to the customer
experience and focusing them on listening rather than processing
the customers' request, more than 75% of advisors participating in
the pilot programs now recognise the value in engaging customers in
'real' conversation and feel that they deliver better customer
service as a result.
"Helping customers open up more so that they feel confident
letting you know their concern means that they are not having to
'phone a second time. You could deal with 4 queries on one
A new way of talking about work:
The Council is heavily unionised and giving open honest feedback
and discussing performance is not the norm. Over time and by
agreeing that "what's said in the room, stays in the room" advisors
became comfortable sharing thoughts and views.
"I learnt how powerful and useful feedback from peers and
colleagues can be. The sessions were not always easy, they were
hard work, but they were definitely worthwhile".
"A few weeks into the Learning teams©
we could hear differences in how advisors interacted with customers
for the better. Achieving Charter Mark best practice is the cherry
on the cake."
Anna, Contact Centre Manager
A new way of measuring success:
We provide the advisor with a call structure that allows them to
navigate through the call in a way that helps them engage with
customers in order to ascertain and address concerns, build rapport
and deliver service that exceeds expectation. 70+% of advisors
assessed that they changed their approach to customers as result of
listening to, and receiving feedback from, colleagues.
"It was good to watch people develop and try out the
learning points from previous sessions and share their experiences
with their colleagues".
Just 3 months after our initial pilot intervention, the Contact
Centre was awarded Charter Mark for quality service, with Learning
Teams© identified as best practice.