Highly Commended, Small Company 1996 Awards 1996, The Finalists Hugh J O'Boyle Training.
A mission statement wasn't enough for Hugh J O'Boyle, training and employment services providers of Downpatrick, County Down. It added a credo as well. This pledges the company continually to challenge the learner to reach new heights. There's no doubt that the 35 members of O'Boyle's largely female and hugely enthusiastic workforce have taken the words to heart.
The aim of the business, says director John Carson, is to help 16-60-year-olds find satisfying employment. Every year O'Boyle assists up to 1,000 unemployed people with career guidance, training and work experience. The company operates a Training & Employment Agency sponsored programme Jobskills, which aims to raise the quality of training available to young people and unemployed adults.
It also offers its own basic skills and NVQ training for students in business administration, accounts, retailing, wholesaling, warehousing and stores, childcare and information technology. Having first entered the training market in 1986, O'Boyle has lately added a recruitment agency, Rossmore Recruitment, at its Belfast office.
The competition offered by Northern Ireland's other 126 training providers is a constant spur to O'Boyle. The company benchmarks its services against world-class operations in Europe and the US, and methods observed on visits abroad are put to good use at home. 'An idea which we picked up from the US, on a recent quality study trip to Boston, is our system of internal defects reporting,' observes general manager Nicola Finnegan. 'This enables us to monitor every instance of customer dissatisfaction wherever they may occur in the organisation.
We are all aiming towards zero defects.'
A Customer Service Charter outlines O'Boyle's quality standards, mission statement and complaints procedure. Staff are expected to 'own' any complaints received and to do everything possible not to lose a customer; to use correct telephone etiquette and answer calls within three rings 'with a smile'; to take care with their personal appearance; always to talk positively, and to be an ambassador inside and outside the company. They should invariably practise 'O'Boyle's three steps': first, a warm, sincere greeting, using the customer's name when possible; second, to exceed customers' expectations (the way to great customer service, according to Carson, is to under-promise and over-deliver); third, a friendly goodbye.
Statistics recording numbers of clients interviewed, assessed, placed and employed are on display in each of O'Boyle's three offices. 'It's vital that we analyse our customers' needs thoroughly at the very start, otherwise they are unlikely to complete their training courses,'
says Carson. The company monitors trainees' progress throughout their placements or college courses, and gets constant feedback on company performance through a system of structured questionnaires, evaluation forms and interviews.
O'Boyle gives high priority to the development of its own staff, and in fact several of the most senior employees have come up through the ranks. Superior performance is recognised by verbal thanks, written notes and small gifts. But for most employees the urge to help members of the community escape the ills of unemployment would appear to be motivation enough.
The winners of this year's Service Excellence Awards performed superbly under all four of the best practice headings identified by Unisys (understanding customers; operational excellence; engaging the hearts and minds of employees; leadership, vision and values). Shortlisted companies were often strong in two or three of these categories rather than all four.
Adhesive labels manufacturer Harkwell Labels (a subsidiary of Ferguson International Holdings) and the Hilton National hotels chain both excelled in their understanding of customer needs. Harkwell, Britain's biggest self-adhesive label manufacturer, numbers most of the major food retailers - Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose - among its customers. It promotes long-term relationships in a ferociously competitive market by allotting particular named employees (who are available 24 hours a day) to each of its key accounts.
Innovation, planning and design are then closely co-ordinated with each customer
Hilton National, with 25 hotels in the UK, has undertaken extensive research into the differing requirements of its customer base. Its three broad classes of customer - business, individual leisure and group leisure - are further divided into eight customer groups and 32 sub-segments. Strategic programmes have been developed to meet the needs of each.
Operational excellence is a hallmark of leading air express carrier DHL International (UK), also of Farnell Components, mail order suppliers of electronic and associated products. DHL meets exceptional demands such as special deliveries outside normal hours or destinations, and provides a tailored service to over 100 key customers. Farnell stocks over 50,000 separate lines and supplies 87,000 customers from its automated warehouse outside Leeds.
Over 25,000 products are despatched daily, and fewer than 0.5% of orders fail to be completed on the day requested.
The Army Presentation Team (APT) has the job of explaining the role of defence in general, and of the army in particular, to selected audiences throughout the UK. Shugborough is the ancestral seat of the Earl of Lichfield and a notable tourist attraction. Both excel at motivating employees. The six members of the APT brim with enthusiasm as they deliver their message in 90 hi-tech audio visual presentations each year. More than 100 staff, full-time and part-time, look after 260,000 visitors to Shugborough Hall, museum, park farm and gardens. All demonstrate politeness, approachability, enthusiasm and service.
Some of the other finalists - most notably Customer Supply Services at British Aerospace Dynamics and the London Borough of Southwark's Revenue Services - have been taking impressive steps towards improving their customer focus.
Business to Business
- DHL International (UK)
- Farnell Electronics - Farnell Components
- Hugh J O'Boyle Training
- TNT Express (UK)
- Volvo Truck and Bus - Aftermarket Consumer Services
- Allied Carpets Group
- Black & Decker - UK Service Division
- Hilton National
- RCI UK & Ireland Financial Services
- Birmingham Midshires Building Society
- Credit Card Sentinel
- Lloyds Bank - Retail Banking
- NatWest Life Assurance Manufacturing/Engineering
- Abra Cad
- British Aerospace Dynamics
- Customer Supply Services
- ConvaTec UK - Chronic Care
- Ferguson International Holdings
- Harkwell Adhesive Labels
- The Army Presentation Team
- South Cumbria Community and Mental Health NHS Trust
- Barrow Family Health Advice Centre
- London Borough of Southwark
- Southwark Revenue Services
- Staffordshire County Council - Shugborough Estate.