Over the past three years the Customer Services Business Group of GEC-Marconi's Radar Systems Division has transformed its approach to customers. The introduction of a raft of measures aimed at putting the customer first has required changes in all aspects of the organisation.
Ranging from the structure of the organisation to the office environment, the pursuit of superior service standards has led to major alterations.
GEC-Marconi's Radar Systems Division is one of the world's leading suppliers of radar systems for land and sea-based Air Defence, Air Traffic Control (ATC), and Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) monitoring. Its customers include both military and civil authorities worldwide including the British Army, Royal Jordanian Air Force and the Ministry of Defence.
The 300 employees of the Customer Services Business Group specialise in providing support services to the radar industry. These include technical design, engineering support, spares manufacture and supply, repairs, field technical support and project management for radars. Customer Services primarily supports a diverse product line of GEC-Marconi-built radars, some of them manufactured over 40 years ago.
The challenge of supporting such a wide (and occasionally aged) range of products has forced Customer Services to reconsider its methods of service provision, says Alex Hannam, managing director. In the past, Customer Services (previously known as Customer Support) was organised in functions with numerous project managers handling various customer contracts.
This structure brought considerable confusion to customers who lacked a single, focused point of contact capable of handling all their business requirements. In response, Customer Services has now been restructured into customer groups, with a customer service manager (CSM) created for each customer or country group. CSMs manage all business for their particular customer or country assisted by cross-functional teams.
This new client-facing structure is supported by a Customer Charter which was introduced to focus customer awareness and provide guidance on the company's values. Under the charter, Customer Services makes a variety of commitments including: 'to make it easy for customers to buy from us; to make only those commitments we fully understand and believe we can meet; to meet all commitments to customers on time; to satisfy customers' requirements with systems, products and services that are at world-class standards of value for money, time to market and quality; to ensure customers are treated professionally, promptly and courteously; to build and maintain long-term, trouble-free relationships; and to promptly address and resolve customer complaints'.
In addition to the Customer Charter, employees have their own 17-point charter which outlines what staff can expect from the organisation and what the organisation expects of its employees. Both charters have been used as a base for a variety of metrics which are used by Customer Services to measure both customer and employee satisfaction levels. More than 17 separate key performance measures are currently in use, including suggestions per month, training days per employee, IT help-desk time to deal with requests, on-time deliveries, customer compliments and time to greet customers.
The data on many of these metrics is shown to both staff and visitors on a screen display outside the main entrance to Customer Services' Chelmsford base.
A key component of GEC-Marconi's new, integrated approach to customers is the introduction of customerfocused databases and IT systems which ensure a quicker response to customer demands. Customer compliments, perceptions and complaints are entered by those in contact with customers and provide valuable data on both current performance and areas for improvement.
Staff are encouraged to take responsibility for the resolution of complaints.
An equipment database has been developed to track all GEC-Marconi equipment around the world. This allows Customer Services to identify new and potential customers and to support the needs of existing customers more fully. The spares database provides information on any particular part of a customer's history in buying or enquiring about spares and produces report formats which are compatible with the customer's own database. Employee suggestions are also captured on an ideas database.
More than 40% of employees have submitted suggestions in the last year, with 170 changes to existing products and services.
The judging panel were particularly impressed by the organisation's new Business Process Improvement (BPI) initiative. Under this scheme Customer Services has trained 20 of its employees in BPI to assist in spreading the message of improvement throughout the entire organisation and guide teams in the improvement of specific processes. Each process selected for improvement is accorded a defined owner and a summary sheet which includes the key processes, improvements done, planned and under way, and key performance indicators. Targets for improvement are set at a monthly meeting of senior managers and based on customer needs and wants, customer charter requirements and the organisation's five-year business strategy.
Building this new approach to customer care has required radical change in both organisational culture and employee attitudes. A £2.5 million office refurbishment project designed to provide an open-plan, team-working environment is just one of a number of initiatives which display the determination of the business to spread its customer-orientated vision and values throughout the organisation. Three years of determined effort is now paying dividends.
KEY BUSINESS LESSONS
- Is the office environment customer-friendly? Customer focus may require physical change to the working environment such as teams sitting together
- Make sure the organisation is easy for the customer to do business with: provide the customer with a single point of contact
- Consider customer and employee charters: but any commitment must be measurable and achievable
- Make performance measures visible: display performance statistics to both staff and customers.