The aim of this case study is to highlight how a business improved its customer service ethos through its commitment to apply best practice HR development principles.

The Organisation

A leading service provider for independent financial advisors (IFA) was created in 1989 and had grown to several hundred people within a few years. They became an independent subsidiary of UK PLC Group quoted as one of the fastest growing and profitable companies in the UK stock exchange.

The Challenges

The fast growth of the company into a new market resulted in significant pressures on managing change for people at all levels. The management team had to set up new plans policies, procedures and controls with few proven templates. The staff had to adapt their roles and responsibilities very quickly, often fast-tracking into management with little time for formal training.
The Chief Executive and the Financial Director recognised the need for installing more structured development processes so that they could consolidate the profitable growth of the organisation and maintain customer service levels to the very high standards imposed by the regulatory authorities.

The Approach

The senior managers recognised the links between internal customer service and external customer care. They therefore decided to benchmark themselves against international standards of best practice in planning, communications, and human resource development. They wanted a flexible model which would continue to act as a benchmark during the future expansion. Clive Bonny, an external qualified consultant who specialised in benchmarking, helped them create a project plan for improvement. This began with an organisation-wide survey on the effectiveness of their business plans, internal communications and people management activities. This included auditing the effectiveness of their communication channels by interviewing a representative sample of employees at all levels. The management team then developed an action plan identifying key tasks, people and processes to improve.

The Implementation

The management team found that the changes justified the appointment of a specialist staff development manager reporting to the Board to coordinate resources effectively. This position initiated a number of activities with the consultant’s support. These included:

* Personal coaching
* A management skills audit to identify and prioritise management development needs
* The countrywide communication of the business mission, department goals and training strategy to improve people’s sense of purpose;
* The formation of focus groups to improve employee communications, appraisal and induction;
* Recognition and staff motivation schemes;
* Installing competency maps, skills matrices, coaching logs and a system to evaluate the effects of training.

Bonny kept the management team regularly informed of progress through updates of the Action Plan and personal briefings. He also ensured the main board sponsor was invited on benchmarking visits to see how other non-competing businesses had improved internal customer services.

The Outcomes

The second survey undertaken showed significant improvements in all key areas particularly internal communications. Bonny commented “My one to one interviews were much more positive because employees clearly shared the common goal and were operating more effectively as a team to support customers. Their improved performance management system had also received widespread support from staff. The conversion of their corporate goals and priorities into visual images was particularly helpful in their communication of key messages.”
The company subsequently won a national training award to use as a recruitment tool to attract and retain the best managers and people. Directors agreed to act as role models by reviewing their own personal development needs as their business continued to grow.