Latest News

National Customer Service Week – Some of our team talk about their firsthand experiences

4th October 2018

Customers are at the heart of everything that we do at Barhale. Therefore, Barhale are fully embracing ‘National Customer Service Week’; a week long opportunity to raise awareness of customer service and the vital role it plays in successful business practice and the growth of the UK economy.

We have been speaking to some of our Customer Liaison team from around the country understanding what a day in their life looks like and how they are responding to our customer requirements and challenges.

Working on our Yorkshire Water framework, Amjad Khan is Barhale’s Third Party Manager. In this role, Amjad works collaboratively with Yorkshire Water’s delivery service teams in Asset Solutions. He is responsible for ensuring that all our projects have the correct notifications, licenses, agreements, planning permissions and customer service communications in place to get to site. For this role to be successful, Amjad is in constant communication with Yorkshire Water, Highways England, local private landowners, planners, customers and other key stakeholders.

When asked about what he enjoys about his job, Amjad says I like how every day is a new challenge that requires us as a team, as well as myself as an individual, to empathise with a customer’s situation and come up with solutions that will help the customer. We will not always be able to meet the needs of the customer but if we are upfront with them and they can see that we are trying to help, then this will help decrease tensions and frustrations on site for both our colleagues and the customers themselves.”

There are so many examples of when Amjad has been able to have a positive effect on our customer lives, where due to the work we have been undertaking, had Amjad have not been doing his job well, the outcome could have been very different. Today, Amjad tells us about one of those times:

“We had a project in a garden to install a new sewer and unfortunately the route of the sewer meant we had to remove a tree, which marked the location of where a customer had buried her beloved pet cat. Understandably, she was very upset by this and wanted us to avoid digging in this area. Unfortunately, the route of the sewer could not be changed as it was the only gap between the houses to the field where we were connecting into. Therefore, we carefully exhumed the remains of her cat and, with the customer present, we reburied the remains in a different location of the garden. I also donated some flowers that would mark the new location. The site team stopped works during this time and were sensitive to the customer’s feelings. The customer then wrote a letter of praise thanking everyone for how sensitively they handled the situation.”

Working as part of the @one Alliance for Anglian Water, Amber Richardson is our Customer Service Coordinator. In this role, she is responsible for identifying the customer impact on all the water schemes and works with the project teams, communities and stakeholders to minimise these. The role centralises around communicating the details of the schemes to our customers so they fully understand why we are doing the work and what they can expect when we arrive on site. Amber can then proactively ensure that any concerns, queries or problems they may have are dealt with immediately.

Naturally, not everything always goes to plan and therefore, Amber also has a reactive role to play when a customer contacts us directly with a complaint. When asked how best to react in this situation, Amber says, “It is important that I build strong relationships not only with our customers but also both in the office and with the frontline gangs carrying out the work. My role is fast paced and I often need the help of multiple people at one time to sort out an issue or make a positive change to leave our customer happy.”

Amber highlights a very pertinent point to the successful management of customer service. Whilst we have focused customer liaison personnel, in many situations it is the actions of our frontline teams that leaves our customers happy. We are fortunate at Barhale that we have a very strong customer service culture in which these project teams instinctively manage our customer needs and often go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure they are left happy.

When asked about describing a time when a potential unhappy customer was left happy Amber says: “We had a particularly challenging scheme in Northampton where we had to temporarily shut off the water supply to undertake critical work on the asset. As a matter of course all customers are contacted to advise of the upcoming work and warning cards detailing the works are posted to all residents. We also try and speak personally to the directly impacted customers. On this occasion, despite our gangs being fully trained on how to liaise with our customers, some customers felt reluctant to open their doors. Therefore, we could not be sure that they fully understood the implications of the work.” One of these customers rang the helpdesk requesting further information. Amber personally went to visit this resident, a lady with a young child, to ensure she fully understood the implications of the works being undertaken and to answer any questions she may have

Describing the visit, Amber says: “I listened to her questions and future concerns. I apologised that she felt she was not able to approach our site team directly, but assured her that they are all very amenable and would be happy to respond to any of her questions. I also confirmed that she could contact me at any time for any further information she may require. When I was back in the office I arranged for a toy to be sent to her child and a bouquet of flowers. She then rang me a few days later to thank me for the gesture and my help.”

Both Amber and Amjad are managing our customers’ needs on a daily basis alongside many others at Barhale. This inherent skillset in all our Barhale people is key to our business sustainability.

We have asked people from around Barhale what customer service means to them, as it touches each and every one of us in a different way, but their feedback demonstrates that the core principals are evident throughout. Let’s see what they have to say:

Amjad says “I’m quite pragmatic generally and believe that customer service should be the same. It should be realistic to the situation and reasonable in its application, especially for the type of work we do, which can be very disruptive to people’s daily activities. Each customer has their own individual requirements, just like each project has. Therefore, we should aim to align the different requirements as best we can and plan for the situations that we can foresee, which may cause them issues prior to starting. Anything that arises after that, needs to be dealt with empathetically and as quickly as possible, while still communicating the process to the customers.”

Amber says: Customer Service shouldn’t be a manual or a “how to guide”. I also feel like the phrase sounds quite clinical and detached. It should be about gauging every situation on its own merits and treating everyone individually. It means giving everyone a personal experience and reacting in a “human way”. It means creating a lasting, positive legacy and ensuring you create natural interactions. This should mean the customer trusts you and associates a good reputation with the company.”

Samantha Barratt, Business Development and Communications Director says: “Good customer service is treating others how you expect to be treated yourself. It requires strong communication in conjunction with careful planning to provide proactive engagement as well as robust reactive management of any queries, complaints and praise.”

Nick Piggott, Bid Manager, Southern Region says: “Being courteous and attentive in providing a timely and hassle free service to your customer with prompt and efficient aftercare.”

Andy Flowerday, Executive Director says: “Going the extra mile.”

Hanna Head, Cost Clerk, Head Office, says: “Impressed enough to recommend.”

Charlie Minskip, Technician, Northern Region says: “Keeping customers in the loop with project progress/feedback. Regular and professional communication is the key.”

Matthew Burgin, Project Manager, Yorkshire Region says: “Delivering sustainable solutions that exceed the expectations of the client and their customers.”

Sharan Sanghera, Insurance Manager, Head Office says: “Ensuring a customer is heard and understood before acting on job requirements.”

Jackie Danks, Senior Hire Controller says: “Good customer service is making sure you deliver a service where your customer is given the help they require at the time they need it.”

Jimmy Carnall, Customer Liaison Manager, Northern says: “To myself it is a big responsibility to listen to the landowner concerns and get a middle ground to ensure we can resolve efficiently and promptly.”

Tina Lewis, Sales Co-ordinator, BCS Group says: “Making sure that the customer is happy and satisfied with the service you have provided and the outcome, whether it be their first contact with you or they are a regular customer.”

Mark Tierney, Contracts Manager, Liphook says: “Communication….!”

This week represents National Customer Service week, and whilst we are sharing top tips, sharing experiences and describing our thoughts, every week is customer service week at Barhale, as our customers always come first.