Driving a customer-centric culture at Curo Group
In 2012, four housing organisations, owning 12,000 homes around Bath and Bristol, came together to become a single brand and one of the largest social landlords outside of London. The new company took the name Curo (meaning ‘I care’ in Latin) and set about creating a five-year strategic plan outlining its vision, its values and its six business priorities. It then commenced a radical programme of change which involved the restructuring of teams and processes and the refurbishment of its premises.
“Our number one priority from the outset has been to create a renowned customer service culture,” said Donna Baddeley, Curo Group’s Executive Director of Transformation and Business Improvement. “It’s part of building our brand and strengthening our offer to the market. To provide the best possible experience for the people who live in our properties or use our services, we have to put the customer at the heart of everything we do. We decided to introduce a company-wide customer experience programme to help everyone in the business develop the attitudes and behaviours that would enable us to achieve this aim.
”From a tender process that attracted 30 submissions, Curo selected Energize Learning to design and deliver the customer experience programme. “We were looking for a tailored development solution that would instil a ‘way of being’ with our customers,” said Donna Baddeley. “Energize was the unanimous choice of our selection panel because they understood what we were trying to achieve and they recommended an ideal programme that would enable us to clarify exactly what we meant by customer service and what we expect from our colleagues.”
To understand the interactions between Curo’s colleagues and customers, Energize’s lead facilitator attended home visits with its tradesmen and studied its call centre and inter-departmental operations. Focus groups of residents and colleagues were held to identify and discuss key service challenges and a ‘visioning’ workshop on excellent customer service was run for the executive team.
“Energize got under the skin of our operation to understand not only the challenges that our colleagues face in their day-to-day roles but also the context in which they’re working,” said Donna Baddeley. “This was really useful as it meant they could support concepts in the programme with relevant examples from our business.”
Energize delivered two separate modules for all of Curo’s 450 colleagues. The first was run for mixed cohorts of colleagues, which brought people together from different parts of the business. It began with a short video that Energize had produced, showing external and internal customers talking about how they like to be treated. The session examined the essence of great customer service and highlighted the importance of attitude, listening skills, questioning, taking ownership and understanding customer emotions. Colleagues were asked to consider personal changes that they could make in their work practices, to bring the customer service vision to life.
The second module was delivered for colleagues in their teams and focused on resolving difficult customer situations and how teams could work together more productively to meet the needs of internal and external customers. Each team made their own commitments about how they could work more collaboratively to benefit their customers.
Energize ran separate sessions for Curo’s 70 managers, outlining their responsibility as role models and how they can use coaching to encourage and reinforce the right behaviour. A ‘train the trainer’ session was also delivered, to enable Curo to run the programme itself for new colleagues as they join. To help sustain the learning, individual colleagues were asked to volunteer to become internal champions of the approach. Energize then ran a session on how these champions could promote good practice internally and ensure that individuals and teams lived the commitments they had made to improve customer service across the organisation.
“It’s been an excellent programme and all aspects of it were focused on our needs, highly engaging and expertly facilitated by the Energize team,” said Donna Baddeley. “We can definitely see tangible benefits throughout the business. People are more motivated, they’re more focused on meeting the needs of customers, they’re choosing their attitude, encouraging others to be positive and using the concepts and terminology from the programme. It’s had a significant impact.”
“Having the executive team fully behind the programme has been massively important in showing colleagues that we’re genuinely committed to customer care,” said Donna Baddeley. “Also, we’ve run the programme with rigour and discipline after establishing a project board to oversee the implementation. We’ve reinforced the key messages from the programme internally via posters and visual reminders and we’re also introducing a monthly recognition scheme for colleagues to promote and embed the desired behaviours.”
Sustaining the transformation
Curo commissions independent surveys of its customers and it uses an indicator called ‘net promoter score’, to gauge customer satisfaction and the loyalty of its customer relationships. “Our customer net promoter score has increased by 46% and that’s a direct correlation of the improved service we’re now delivering,” said Donna Baddeley. “Customers are also saying we’re living our values more. On top of that, our staff net promoter score has increased by 61%. All of these improvements can be traced back to the Energize programme.”
As Curo expands its commercial activities, Donna Baddeley says the benefits of the programme could have far-reaching implications.“If our colleagues are unfailingly courteous and polite, and they go the extra mile for customers, that will clearly drive customer loyalty,” she said. “Plus, if we’re seen as positive and progressive, we’ll become an employer of choice and that will help us to attract and retain great people. Because of our commercial activities, we increasingly need to appeal to private customers, as we’re committed to shared ownership and we’re creating a new house building division and introducing holiday lets. Consequently, our reputation in the market is now even more important.
If we can differentiate ourselves in terms of being ethical, offering value for money and delivering excellent service, that will help us achieve our ambitious growth plans. The Energize programme and the changes we’ve made in every part of our business have placed us firmly on the road to reach that goal.”
About Curo Group:
Curo provides affordable homes and high quality care and support services across the West of England.