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West of Scotland Housing Association’s (WSHA) Central Services team recently achieved Customer Service Excellence (CSE) certification, underpinning its commitment to putting its customers at the heart of what it does.

Geraldine Connolly, WSHA’s Central Services Manager, says: “The certification process is robust and is an independent validation that shows we provide efficient, effective, customer-focused services, and that we’re constantly striving to improve.

“The CSE certification process has also been excellent for motivation and team building – it was important to make sure that everyone in the team was involved and engaged from the start.”

Customer-focused activities

The Central Services team’s customer-oriented activities include answering all telephone calls to the Association. It is usually the first point of contact for customers, giving advice on all aspects of housing.

The team also deals with housing allocations, organises repairs, advises on welfare rights and income maximisation, and provides support services to the Association.

When dealing with sensitive and confidential issues such as benefits, the Central Services team must communicate sensitively and effectively. Organising repairs requires care and accuracy in obtaining the correct information, timeliness and, again, good communication.

The road to CSE

“We felt our CSE application would focus the team on the core elements necessary to ensure we understand our customers and give them the best possible service,” says Geraldine Connolly.

WHSA chose SGS United Kingdom Ltd to carry out its CSE assessment. Geraldine says: “We had previously attended an awareness training course run by Robert Sullivan and wanted to improve our services further. We were very satisfied with the high standard of service we received from SGS.”

Robert Sullivan, Auditor for SGS, says: “Even early on, in the self-assessment and pre-assessment phases, it was clear that WSHA was using the process as a powerful tool to continually improve its services.” 
 
WSHA’s customer service initiatives include:

  • Developing customer journey mapping, which involves meeting tenants and service users, assessing levels of satisfaction and using feedback to refine, improve and shape services  
  • Benchmarking processes and performance with, and learning from, other organisations
  • Installing television displays in reception areas at its area offices, and introducing text messaging, to report on performance and provide other important customer information

“WSHA performed well in the CSE assessment,” says Robert Sullivan. “I saw for myself how WSHA uses feedback positively to make its services ever better and more, customer friendly.”      

WSHA Central Services’ CSE certification applies for the three years to November 2015, subject to satisfactory outcomes in annual surveillance visits.

Next steps

There are many similarities between the CSE criteria and the requirements of the Scottish Social Housing Charter (SSHC), recently introduced by the Scottish Government, which all social landlords must assess themselves against.

Geraldine Connolly says: “CSE has given us an excellent start – the two dovetail quite neatly – and we intend to build on CSE in preparation for the SSHC. We’ll also continue to apply all of the principles of the five CSE criteria – developing our customer insight, communicating with our customers, monitoring their views and satisfaction, making improvements and letting our tenants know the outcomes. CSE has emphasised the importance of closing this circle.”  

ABOUT SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 75,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,500 offices and laboratories around the world.