In this post People & Learning Manager, Marie Nichols shares what we’re going to change and improve following employment-service customer feedback.

Marie Nichols

I’ve worn many hats during my career working in housing, employability, and people management, and it’s through wearing each of those hats that I have come to understand the importance of asking people about their experiences.  

It sounds obvious but I’ve worked with people in the past who have shied away from asking customers what they think, through fear of getting negative feedback. I wholeheartedly believe that if we don’t know what our customers really think, we cannot meet their needs and provide the service they actually want, as opposed to the service we think they need.  

It is lovely when we receive positive feedback and a real boost for our staff, but it’s far more useful when customers tell us what they didn’t like, or what they would like more or less of – that’s the information that helps us to improve and keeps us relevant. 

Marie Nichols

At Renaisi we run a customer survey every six months. It goes out to participants on all five of our employability programmes: Inspiring Families, Journey2Work, RISE, Transitions and Southwark Works.

It’s a real balance between keeping it short so that our customers don’t find it too onerous and asking enough questions to draw up an improvement plan. The most recent survey was completed throughout May 2021 and we were really pleased to see that customer satisfaction levels have been maintained once again.

You can read the full May 2021 customer survey report here.

Alongside lovely comments about the support our employment service teams provide were some very important constructive comments from which we’ve drawn out some things to improve on.

Coronavirus and the impact of remote working

The positive responses regarding the impact of Covid-19 on support far outweighed responses that mentioned a negative impact. Customers stated that remote appointments without travel time were easier to manage around other commitments, they became more empowered to do things themselves without face-to-face appointments and were able to practice their IT and telephone skills. Some customers are really missing face-to-face interaction and specified they would prefer to have in person contact with their advisor as communication is better that way, and so we have started to offer more face-to-face appointments to those that prefer them. 

Staff changes and the impact on relationships

Our advisors build up a rapport with their customers so if they move on to other opportunities the customer must build that relationship with a new advisor. Some of this is beyond our control, but in future we will try and build in more time for handover meetings between outgoing advisors, their customers, and a new advisor, to support the building of the new relationship. We also want to make sure that if there is a gap between one advisor leaving and a new one starting, the customer has a known contact to support them in the interim. 

Frequency of appointments and communication

Communication was more negatively commented on than in previous surveys, perhaps an indication that communication is harder while working remotely. As a team we have put a plan in place to make sure staff are communicating at a frequency that meets individual customer needs. We are also introducing another route, outside of the 6 monthly survey, for customers to provide feedback via a link on our website, email signatures, and customer paperwork. This digitalises the comments cards we have at our offices and will help us capture customer opinions ‘in the moment’. 

Our Head of Services (Jim Cotterrell) will review our progress against these themes regularly, and we will revisit them when we carry out our next customer survey. Our customer survey is just one of the mechanisms we use to drive change and improvement at Renaisi, and so the results are fed into our evaluation activities and improvement plan. The plan incorporates compliance scores and key performance indicators, anonymous customer demographic analysis, Matrix Standards, staff consultation, and other qualitative customer feedback, gathered in focus groups. We know we don’t get it all right, but we are committed to reflecting and evaluating to develop the best service we can for our customers, and their feedback is at the heart of that.  

I’m interested in hearing how other organisations collect and use customer feedback. To share ideas please do not hesitate to get in contact. 

Marie Nichols