Customer Services Group UK National Conference
By Breege Whiten, on 11 February 2015
CSGUK’s National Annual Conference 2014
Last November, Breege Whiten (Acting Head of Issue Desk Services), Noreen Beecher (Head of Evening and Weekend Services) and Jason Hobart (Science Library Desk Head) attended the first Annual Conference of the Customer Services Group UK with a view to discover more about the provision of excellent services for our users.
CSGUK was formed in April 2012, although it was originally called the ‘M25 Customer Services Group’ because it was affiliated with the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries (a group representing member Libraries across the South East). In the summer of 2014 the group was renamed CSGUK and it became independent and national. The group aligned with the M25 Consortium because they shared the aim of collaborating within academic Libraries to improve services. While CSGUK still shares this aim with the M25 Consortium it now works with Libraries across the UK.
The aims of the group are:
• Discuss and share knowledge of new developments in customer service generally, and within Libraries more specifically
• Share knowledge and techniques used around measures already implemented in HE libraries
• Discuss and develop methods for improving customer service, especially where there is potential for active collaborative working.
The title of the conference was: “What Does Excellence Really Look Like? Tangible Examples of Quality In Customer Service” and there were enlightening presentations throughout the day from award-winning speakers from both HE and the public sector discussing the changes they made to their services in order to achieve the Customer Service Excellence Award.
It was nice to see our former colleague, Lis Hannon among the organisers of the event which took place in the unique surroundings of the Magic Circle Club Headquarters which was first established in 1905. During lunch, it was good to meet and network with colleagues from other institutions amidst some fascinating memorabilia celebrating the careers of eminent conjurers such as David Devant, Jasper Maskelyne and Paul Daniels!
Breege, Noreen and Jason each attended different sessions and below are a selection of session write ups, on a varied range of approaches to customer services excellence.
The session entitled: “Improving Services Using Lean Methodology” focused on the application within the Library environment of a systemic method for the elimination of waste that was pioneered by Toyota in the 1980’s. Essentially, lean production is centred on making obvious what adds value by reducing everything else. Working from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or service, “value” is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. The presentation certainly made one consider how many potentially superfluous, time consuming and, ultimately wasteful steps exist within our workflows. These are often overlooked and never interrogated in terms of their value to the customer simply because they form part of a tradition. When reviewing workflows, it’s important to ask of each step: “do we continue to include this because it enhances customer satisfaction? Or do we continue to include this because that simply is the way we have always done it?”
Another session attended focused on the adoption and integration of a ‘Compliance Plus Culture’ and the talk was led by Erin Caseley and colleagues from KCL. Their aim was to achieve the Customer Service Excellent Award for which 5 key areas are assessed;
1. Customer Insight
2. The Culture of the organisation
3. Information and access
5. Timeliness and quality of the service
The focus for the KCL team was around, Strategy, Market orientation, Values and Empowerment. They began by identifying their main customer groups and assessing the needs of the different groups using customer journey maps to see how they interacted with the services offered and helping to group or categorise types of customers accordingly. The experiences shared in the session highlighted the need to be accepting of honest customer feedback that could identify some areas of service provision that were failing, the focus then became to engage with those disaffected customers and involving them in the redefining / reviewing of processes aimed at ensuring the 5 key areas assessed were front and centre of the customer service experience. Additional benchmarking exercises were conducted to help identify areas for improvement.
The key areas of focus for service improvement were ensuring relevant team plans enabled staff to work towards the same goals and objectives offering opportunities for staff to be involved. KCL aim to empower and encourage all employees to actively promote and participate in the customer focused culture of the organisation ensuring;
• Freedom to make decisions within a framework of guidance
• Staff responsible for decision making
• Responsive and inclusive
• Maintaining a consistent and fair service
The session entitled: “Customer Service Excellence – Making It Real” was lead by Jenny Share from Leeds Metropolitan University. It concentrated on giving the delegates tips and ideas about successfully gaining your Customer Service Excellence Award (CSEA). Jenny was very enthusiastic about the whole of your institution taking on the challenge of the CSEA and intimated that the work put in to the award shouldn’t always come ‘from the top down’, it needs to involve all grades of staff, and in particular those who work in front line roles. Leeds embedded getting their CSE award in to their library strategy (like UCL Library Services have) with a realistic deadline to work towards. Communication is key, not only with staff but also library users, and feedback on your customer service is paramount. Leeds employed mystery shoppers to test out their customer services, and encouraged feedback from library users at all points on the way. When the time came Leeds appointed an external assessor to help prepare for the assessment and provided evidence through many formats including written documents, films, events organised, and student feedback. Jenny said it was important to have a culture of celebration of staff and achievements at all levels, and that when the process was completed a large all staff party was held (something which we know how to do only too well at UCL!).
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