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Improving the Customer Service

In his role as Head of Operations at Heathrow Express, founding director Richard was responsible for the delivery of Customer Service.  The quality of Customer Service offered was fundamental to the brand image of the premium service and was something all employees were passionate about.  Richard, however, quickly recognised that whilst the organisation aspired to deliver excellent customer service it had not articulated what this meant in practice. He led a team that developed and delivered a customer service strategy aligned to the brand and service aspirations of the company and achieved outstanding results.

Customer Service was a key offering in the delivery of the premium Heathrow Express service day in day out. Richard discovered that the service offered to customers was inconsistent due mainly to a lack of definition of what the ‘customer experience’ should be and what aspects of delivery this covered. He realised that having a clearly defined strategy and approach could result in considerable benefits to the business.

Richard led a team whose task was to review the current strategy, checking alignment to the brand and ensuring that the definition of customer service was clear and still accurate given the service had been operating for 5 years.  A review of customer comments was also conducted to gain an insight into what customers felt about the service.

Every customer contact point was reviewed, ensuring that each stage of the customer journey was defined in terms of what the experience should be.  This was done with focus groups involving employees who worked with customers every day and office based employees. 

A practical guide for employees was then compiled with the overall aim being to not only attract the customer, but “wow” to the extent that they would tell their friends and colleagues and use the service again.

Having established the purpose and end results required, the process involved consultation with brand managers and everyone who had contact with customers in order to capture their experiences, and the views of customers.

Once the customer’s needs were established, a customer service strategy that was aligned with the overall business strategy was created. Having delivered an agreed strategy the team set about the task of creating the ‘Customer Experience’, again involving consultation with employees to help capture best practice. Once this work was complete and the processes created or amended a launch was devised and delivered. The implementation of the new customer experience involved changes to training for new recruits, processes to re-train existing staff and launch briefings for all affected. Measurement processes to monitor the delivery were also put in place with team leaders and managers.

By undertaking this project Richard improved consistency of service, levels of customer satisfaction and provided a level of clarity that improved the employee experience. By providing measures, managers were able to correlate the link between what was being asked of employees, what the customer experienced and relate this to improved customer satisfaction results.

He oversaw improvement in a number of customer service measures including appearance, availability and friendliness of staff as well as the quality of information they provided. Repeat use/recommend to others results in customer surveys reached new highs adding a significant improvement to the overall profitability of the company. In January 2007 Heathrow Express became the nation’s favourite railway scoring a record breaking 96% overall satisfaction in the National Passenger Survey.

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