A frequently asked question is: “Does tenant choice exist in the social housing sector?” Absolutely, it does. The new Charter for Social Housing Residents provides a clear statement that the safety, well-being and voices of social housing residents should be paramount. And, as the sector refocuses its efforts to maintain customer-led priorities; housing organisations continue to evaluate whether a shift from enhancing customer experience to embracing customer excellence will help them to meet their objectives. To make the shift towards customer excellence, organisations should be prepared to ask some hard questions and be prepared to receive some feedback that may make them uncomfortable.
Customer excellence needs internal focus
Why the discomfort? It is virtually impossible to consider customer excellence for external customers without a proportionate internal focus. For customer excellence to become embedded everyone must do their part. This rarely requires a change in duties or extra work but it does, for example, mean everyone taking a holistic approach to their role and considering how what they do impacts other parts of the organisation. Employers should be willing to hear views from employees such as needs not being met, not feeling valued and being on the receiving end of colleagues who are rude, to name a few.
So, to ensure the success of a ‘customer excellence’ learning programme, how willing are you to encourage challenging conversations; and, more importantly, to hear and act upon the needs of your employees who are also customers? Is it reasonable to expect a half or one day learning session to inspire employees, particularly those resistant to change, to embrace and adopt a new mind-set or new behaviours if you are not prepared to encourage conversations that veer from the course that you set? Placing an emphasis on starting with the end in mind, is often a useful strategy. However, anticipating the answers that you want to hear in response to those, sometimes, controversial questions, may have the effect of stifling honest conversations. Is it possible that, by not giving air to the negative view, you might sabotage your best intentions to strive for excellence? Can you reasonably expect ‘excellence’ to be in the ‘muscle memory’ of employees if it isn’t something they experience in the workplace?
What’s in it for me?
With tenant satisfaction measures and the impending regime of regulatory inspections coming into force in stages; we understand part of the context driving the need for excellence. However, learning objectives must also address the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question; if events are to have their desired effects; especially in the long-term. Ensuring that your customer excellence programme can answer the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question by demonstrating how it aligns to your well-being strategy, among others, is worthy of consideration; and should form part of the learning and development process.
Written by KP, Associate at AKD.
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