NVQ Unit C5 - Monitor and solve customer service problems - Part 2
When organisations or businesses have recurring customer service problems, changes need to be made to improve services. It does not happen overnight, but takes a lot of planning and implementation for that to happen. Once implemented, the changes need to be monitored.
In this hub, the discussions are around seeking approval to change organisational guidelines to reduce the chance of a recurring problem, how the agreed solutions are actioned, how to keep customers informed in a positive and clear manner of steps being taken to solve the service problems and also about how these changes are monitored after implementation.
This is a level 3 unit with a credit value of 6. For ease of navigation and to keep the hubs from being too long, this unit has been divided into three parts.
To have a look at the other two parts of this unit, please follow the links below.
3.1 Describe a time when you have sought approval to change organisational guidelines to reduce the chance of a problem being repeated.
Organisational guidelines are standards or plans that are laid for every action or task performed in the organisation. Some of them come with explanations for employees to follow while performing certain tasks or actions. These guidelines can sometimes be a barrier to efficient working or can have loopholes that decrease the efficiency of a task thereby decreasing performance as a whole. It can also create so many side effects and cost the organisation.
One little step towards revising the guidelines, and making necessary changes will make a huge difference in the overall working and efficiency. The revision cannot be done without any input from anyone. Feedback and ideas need to be gathered to make the necessary changes. Once you know what changes need to be made, they need to be taken to the higher management with appropriate evidences and arguments to get them approved.
A very good example for this kind of situation is from my recent work on data disaggregation. The main reason for this huge project was, duplicate recording and missed recording of client details on the organisation's system and they both are serious areas to look into.
Our organisation was part of the neighbouring organisation / authority before they were split into two different councils a few years before. After the split, they were still working as a unitary organisation and as a result of this, the database was shared between both the councils for all services, which means, staff from both councils made entries on one database. Where there were doubts about client areas, especially clients who live along the borders of these two councils, staff from both organisations were making entries creating huge confusions and errors in all reports. This in turn also affected the financial side of things in the business.
This was a confusing procedure and hence after more than a year later after the split, we had the unitary split, with separate database for both the organisations. The shared services still existed for both the organisations and employees who worked for shared services had access to both the database.
When clients called with queries, the employees from shared services either guessed or randomly recorded details on either one of the database, and if the database they checked, did not have the client’s record, they simply created one without checking the other database for clarification. Most of these clients did not belong to the authority on whose database the entry was made and had a record on the relevant or correct database. So this created a duplicate entry and missed information on the correct database.
Employees, who do not work for the shared services, do not have access to the shared services and hence when they look for information about this client on a different instance, they will not be able to see any updates as updates were sometimes not recorded on the correct database. This was chaotic leading to so many issues.
When I was working on this project, as a first step, I was tracking to see what was recorded and why it was recorded. I then had to check if the information was necessary and transfer them to the relevant database. Now this has cost time and money for the organisation, got the customer frustrated, lowered performance (shows up on performance indicators), etc. The records that were duplicated were a few thousands. So it was not something that could be easily ignored.
To avoid all these problems, while we were having a meeting with the head of services for business systems, I brought forward the argument of, “What is the guarantee that this will not happen in the future?” We cannot keep cleansing data forever and this has to stop. I put forward the suggestions that, in order for that to happen, employees need to take necessary measures and steps and some responsibility to record the right information on the right database. In order to achieve that, when dealing with calls from clients,
- Ask for their details and look up on both databases to see if the client’s record exists
- A look at the area where the clients live will give staff a rough idea of which local authority the client belongs to.
- Create a record only if record does not exist on both databases.
- One little question to the customer,” Have you had contacts with or services from us before?” will give that important answer of whether the client will have a record or not.
- Simple proactive measures, good thinking and analytical skills will help avoid a lot of problems from being repeated.
The managers present at the meeting agreed and accepted that this was a valid argument and assured that these guidelines will be put in place for recording information about clients on the SWIFT database.
6 (evidence based) guidelines for organisational change
3.2 How did you action the agreed solution?
The above was a solution to the recording problems that we had. The managers agreed to implement the guidelines. Before that we had to collect some data for evidence. We looked through the spreadsheet that was generated by the ICT team which was the result of a query to the database with some important fields pulled through for clients with duplicate records. The spread sheet had details of the client like, name, date of birth, address, etc. It then had details of what edits were made, by whom it was made, the team that they belonged to, date of edit, etc. This gave us a clear view of who was repetitively making these errors and to our surprise, we did have quite a few people and particular departments that were the reasons for the errors (mostly shared services).
These data and the suggestions were noted down by the managers and they promised to get the relevant team to layout procedures and guidelines for the database users. Trainings were also planned to give staff a good understanding of how to search database and how to justify the area the clients belonged to.
When I pick up cases of duplication or incorrect recording, I contact the relevant candidates and go through with them the reason why I see that record as incorrect and what could be done to improve efficiency in recording.
I also keep monitoring the reports that come down on an application called Swipe, that pulls through a list of all incorrect recordings categorically, that affect the organisations national indicators for performance. I contact the relevant social workers to inform them of what the issue with recording was. Sometimes, I tell them the issue and make the changes myself if the social workers are busy.
3.3 How did you keep your customers informed in a positive and clear manner of steps being taken to solve and service problems?
When customers ring with any queries or problems related to the ones that I am dealing with, I keep a note of them with timescales. My calendar comes in handy. I put in reminders, set up alerts, anything I can do to help myself finish my task well ahead of time. I always set up alerts for a few days before the actual task needs completion. That way it helps me to plan my work well ahead, prioritise my workload and also make time for emergency work that crop up from time to time.
Now looking at the customers, I look through the issues that they bring to my attention and tell them that I will get back to them within a prescribed timescale. After all the research and information gathering, sometimes I respond with a solution straightaway.
In this particular project, we were maintaining a spreadsheet with records of progress. This was sent over to the customer (in this case the neighbouring authority) so that they could track our progress. It was easier for them to compare the statistics because with each passing week, we were adding a sheet to the existing excel book so that data relevant to all the weeks were in the same book.
The spreadsheet I was working on, was saved each day with that particular day’s date so that it was easier to track progress. They had the assurance that work was being done, and an idea of the pace at which work was being done, etc. This will also help to predict a timescale, arrange alternatives if necessary to complete the task. To my surprise, the project went well and I even managed to finish off some work for children’s services (I work for adults’ services).
The project manager was initially worried about how these hundreds or few thousands of edits would be sorted out. At one point, I remember them discussing about bringing in more staff to finish the work on time (we were going to get fined thousands of pounds otherwise). I kept reassuring to my manager that it could be completed within the available timeframe and I showed statistically what I was completing; that is, by showing on an average how many clients could be tested everyday.
Also, with creating records or copying data across, I provided a rough estimate of the number of records that get completed each day. It helped the project team stay positive and also draw out an estimated time. Emails were sent out everyday advising of progress.
Keeping updated of progress, showed the team that I was concerned and enthusiastic about helping. It helped everyone stay at ease and peace. It assured them, gave them positive signals on the progress of the work and an assurance that work would be complete on time.
3.4 How do you monitor any procedure changes you have made?
Procedure changes are monitored through performance indicators, performance reports, Swipe reports, and other statistics. We have our performance statistics at the end or start of every month. This shows variations on the performance reports for different categories and different services.
We also have performance reports, customer problems and other recording issues come down as a report which gets refreshed around midnight everyday. So we have new data every single day to track progress. This will help us with monitoring certain tasks on a daily basis.
For example, if I had informed or requested an employee to make changes to a client’s record to improve performance and efficiency, I will know by the next day if that issue was dealt with. If it was, it will not come down on the report the next day. If it wasn’t dealt with, it will come down again on the report, and that will tell me that the task is still pending. It helps me to chase up on these important tasks, and I sometimes take help from my manager to handle people who are repetitively making the same mistakes or who repetitively do not accomplish the tasks.
Emails sent out to social workers advising of what to change are kept without deleting till they finish the task. That will help me work out the time they take to finish off a task.
A Brief Introduction to Change Management
I hope that you found the information in this hub useful. This is purely for reference purpose only. If you have any questions or wish to share your experience, please do so in the comment section below.
All the best!
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