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In January 2013, East Renfrewshire Council successfully renewed the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) standard in its Customer First department – with no partial compliances. In addition, the assessor found some areas of compliance plus which is an indication of outstanding customer service. The council has previously attained CSE in its Education and Libraries departments.

Customer First’s journey began in 2006 with Charter Mark, which they upgraded to CSE status in 2010.

CSE requires organisations to prove a deep understanding of their customers' needs and to demonstrate they are building their services around these. Customer First wished to provide a high standard of service to customers. 

“Firstly, we wanted to become a more customer focused service,” says Eileen O’Donnell, Customer Information and Support Officer in Customer First. “That meant creating a joined up approach for our customers, to sort out the complexities of the council for them.”

Customer First began work towards CSE two years before attaining the award - reviewing customer services, and building an understanding of how well they were covering the principles of CSE.

“We consulted with customers for their views on waiting times and satisfaction levels, and with other local authorities and businesses too, before we set our new targets,” says Eileen O’Donnell.  “Over the years we have made many changes, including cosmetic changes to provide more comfortable, accessible and private facilities for our customers.”

“SGS have always been very helpful. We worked with the application form, gathering evidence for each criterion which involved implementing changes and introducing new ways of working, evaluating and recording.  We then liaised with the assessor to ensure we were on the right track.”

At first, other council departments worried that Customer First might not cope with providing so many frontline services and so many different user groups. 

“As a new department, we took on frontline/admin tasks on behalf of other council departments to enable the other departments to deal with more indepth enquiries. 

But through CSE we learned the importance of keeping our internal customers up-to-date, consulting with them and providing them with regular feedback and reports. CSE allowed us to put their concerns to rest,” says Eileen O’Donnell.

As a result of putting CSE in place, staff are now more aware of the principles of CSE and are providing a better service to customers.

“The hard work is paying off through better service and increased knowledge and understanding of the different needs and preferences of customer groups. Now we continually review and monitor our targets and set higher targets each year,” adds Eileen O’Donnell.

Customer First aims to continue providing a high standard of customer service working with CSE principles and to gain additional “plus” compliances.

SGS Assessor, Rob Sullivan adds, “It is a privilege to be a Senior CSE assessor for the Customer Service Excellence Award and to be able to introduce people and organisations to CSE, to assess them against the Standard and see the real difference Customer Service Excellence makes to services, staff and the individuals who depend on these important services.”

“In the current climate of budget restraint and increased competitiveness, the CSE Standard is even more critical and adds amazing value to organisations. CSE enables organisations to develop an understanding of what potential and existing customers really want and enables the organisation to develop products and services to meet those needs.”

“CSE helps organisations ‘Get it Right First time’ which delights customers, improves staff satisfaction and importantly reduces costs.”

“Over the years that I have worked with East Renfrewshire Council departments and Customer First, I am pleased to say we have seen continuously improving services and real changes as a result of CSE and staff willing to and be supported to make changes big and small to the service provision.”

“Customer First is ideally placed to meet the challenges of such as Welfare Reform which will impact on its operations and it will be directly supported by other parts of the Council who hold CSE. In this way we can be confident that the council will develop a clear understanding of customer needs and work with partners to develop new, exciting and customer focused services.”

“CSE is a framework for Continuous Improvement and I look forward to seeing Customer First’s latest innovations when I make my next visit.”


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.