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Sedgefield Borough Council

‘One of the most important things participants get from Welcome to Excellence is an awareness of how customer service affects people’s perception of a business,’ says Lucy Wearne, Tourism Officer for Sedgefield Borough Council.

Lucy organises Welcome to Excellence courses for four leisure centres and one museum in the borough. She chose Welcome Host and Welcome Host Plus as she felt these were most suited to receptionists and front-of-house staff.

Everyone is sent on Welcome Host soon after starting, and then Welcome Host Plus a year later. Lucy explains, ‘I work with an independent trainer and hold the courses at one of the leisure centres. The advantage of holding courses in familiar surroundings is that the trainer can make the course specific and relate points to what people do in their day-to-day jobs.’

Around 20 staff from the four leisure centres attend courses each year. ‘Staff can share experiences across centres as they are all slightly different. It’s part of a knowledge curve for them and makes moving to a new centre easier. It also builds team spirit: they can bounce ideas off each other and realise colleagues have advice and help to share.’

She explains, ‘Public services are often seen as the “poor relation” to privately-owned businesses. We aim to show that low price doesn’t have to mean a low or poor service. All levels of staff – including managerial – attend together. This demonstrates it’s the role of everyone in the chain to be proactive in delivering good customer service. The person on reception is equally the face of the company and represents the business to the customer.

‘The timing of a recent Welcome Host Plus course was particularly good as we had just introduced membership turnstiles, where no one was allowed in without a card. Queues could therefore be ten deep. The course helped the reception staff be aware of the need to apologise to people for being kept waiting. They also appreciated that although it was the end of a long day for them, everyone has the right to the same level of service at the end of the day as those earlier at the start of the queue. The knowledge learnt on the course gave them the confidence to deal with the situation.’

A customer insight programme measures satisfaction on a quarterly basis. Lucy has seen the results improve each quarter over the last two years, with the latest satisfaction rating being 88%. Lucy says, ‘Although this isn’t solely due to training, I believe Welcome to Excellence has had a significant impact on the improved ratings.’

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