Senior leaders explore signature service

Nearly 200 senior leaders attended the ‘Role of Leadership in Creating a Service Culture’ conference at the Family Life Centre on Tuesday, 8 April.

The Management Support Unit (MSU) of the Portfolio of the Civil Service (POCS) hosted the event. It featured international speaker Richard Solomon, Managing Director of the Development Consulting Center Limited (Trinidad); Cayman Islands Government E-Services Director Ian Tibbetts; Strategic Advisor in the MSU Peter Gough, and MSU Director Winston Sutherland.

Continuous VIP-level customer experience

The conference focused on the importance of creating a signature service for customers. Mr Solomon explained what such a service looks and feels like: “It is the continuous delivery of a predetermined VIP-level customer experience across all platforms, at all service points, and flashpoints to all customers,” he said. “To create it, the organisation has to live its best life on many fronts. The payoffs are multi-level and powerful: better leadership, employee engagement, attitudes, processes, products, customer experience, quality, efficiency, sales, and profits.”

Mr Gough opened the conference by urging participants to listen to their customers. He used the event itself as an illustration, saying, “We listened to your complaints and changed the venue to provide better parking.”

Mr Sutherland reminded the audience that they have to be in tip-top shape to take care of the needs and exceed the expectations of the customer. To bring his point home, he read the pre-flight instructions that flight attendants give passengers, reminding attendees that, as leaders, they had to put on their oxygen mask first before they can assist the staff or customers.

Anticipate customers needs

Deputy Governor Hon Franz Manderson reminded senior leaders that “customers are at the heart of everything we do.” He followed with a resounding question, “Are we putting the customer at the heart of everything we do?”

He also stressed that being first class isn’t just meeting the needs of our customers. “We have to anticipate what our customers need.”

Mr Solomon connected to the audience right away by asking two “simple” questions: “What are the most important needs of the customer,” and “How do you know these are their needs?”

Deputy Director of the Needs Assessment Unit Matthew Hyton responded that clients may come to the NAU to request assistance to pay for their rent and electricity but, in the end, their real need is to become self-reliant.

Mr Solomon reminded the senior leaders that customers are “the Emperors over the Kingdom. You may say the customer doesn’t understand, but it is not the customer’s job to understand. It is our job to figure it out.”

Empower staff to make quick decisions

He stressed the need to empower staff to make quick decisions, citing an experience he had when returning a faulty phone from Amazon. The person who answered his phone call was able to refund his credit card for the defective phone and, in addition, suggested that he return it to Apple as well.

“Where do you think I am going to purchase a phone from again?” Mr Solomon asked the audience. “Amazon? Right!”

Mr Solomon ended with an age-old question, “How can the Civil Service have compliance and speed simultaneously?”

Department of Education Services Education Psychologist Team Lead Denise Casserly said, “We often forget the value of excellent customer service, particularly for our internal customers. As leaders, we also must remember to hold our teams accountable for this delivery of service. Our good relationships with team members must foster relationships which engender commitment to the value of customer satisfaction.”

Department of Education Services Behaviour Support Services Manager Wayne Roberts said he found the conference motivational and a great way to network with other teams within the Civil Service that attendees wouldn’t usually meet:

“It confirmed for me that the way we interact with customers, our managers, and staff has a significant impact upon how successful we will be as an organisation.”

The one-day conference set the stage for four half-day workshops attended by 117 civil servants. These explored the “Hows” of creating a signature service that connects the specific needs of customers with the delivery of an exceptional customer experience: how to effectively listen to customers, how to improve processes and systems, and how to develop customer service standards.

Additionally, the conference built on the ongoing series of customer service workshops for front line staff that Mr Gough started last year as part of the 5-Year Strategic Plan to transform the Cayman Islands Civil Service to deliver world-class service. To date, over 40 one-day workshops have been conducted and over 450 customer service ambassadors trained.