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Award success for Serco's pioneering quality management programme

Published: 28 Apr 2014

A far-reaching quality management programme that puts customers at the very heart of service delivery has secured a top industry award and is now expected to set new standards in operational excellence within the Contact Centre industry.  Following a highly successful and innovative pilot programme, the new Serco Quality Framework has just secured a key award for 'Excellence in Transformation' in the industry-wide P&Q Challenge and is now about to be rolled out across six of Serco's UK retail operations. And the executive responsible for developing and implementing the new framework has been shortlisted for a top personal award for her achievements over the past 12 months.

The P&Q Challenge is a major collaborative venture in the customer service sector to identify new benchmarks for performance management and quality monitoring within an industry that is undergoing considerable operational change. The new Quality Framework developed by Serco has been developed in response to the challenge and aims to provide a consistent and supportive approach to quality management across different work streams and different forms of customer contact. 

Serco's new concept has been developed to reflect all key business requirements as well as the principles of continuous service improvement. And, in an industry first, competencies and performance standards are now aligned fully with direct customer feedback and the drive to be a global leader in retail customer experience.

"The new framework is a far cry from conventional performance measures and traditional quality control processes associated with Contact Centres," explains Julia Ashman, Serco's Head of Process Assurance and Quality, who has been responsible for developing the new framework and who has been shortlisted as National Quality Manager of the Year in the 2014 Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) Awards. 

She said: "We've moved away from 'tick box' performance measures and gone right back to the drawing board. This has helped to highlight the most important things for today's customers, how we can make it easier for customers to do business with us and how we can ensure our service performance is measured and improved in accordance with the real priorities of the business. We've consulted extensively with Advisers and Team Leaders every step of the way and have taken every opportunity to apply customer insight in developing a more appropriate quality framework that is easy to use, motivational and progressive. As a result our approach to training and the personal development of Advisers is now focused primarily on conversational and customer management skills rather than adherence to prescriptive and one-dimensional processes."

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Despite the considerable cultural change, the results from the pilot exercise at Serco's Contact Centre in Cardiff have exceeded all expectations.  Customers have indicated a significant improvement in the ease with which queries have been resolved - an increase of more than 10% compared to previous service arrangements. And there has been a similar increase in the customer perception of how well an Adviser understood the query.  Significantly, such improvements have been achieved without any increase in average call handling times.

A full review of the pilot has enabled Julia and her colleagues to fine-tune the new approach to reflect all elements of broader service transformation objectives and the new framework is now ready to be rolled out across six of the company's retail operations. The feedback from Advisers has also been exceptional, with team-based problem solving founded on increased engagement within a much more positive, forward-looking and customer-centric operation.

The Serco Quality Framework was evaluated in a grueling series of workshops and a tough assessment exercise as part of the accreditation process for the P&Q Challenge. This resulted in Serco receiving the key award for 'Excellence in Transformation' with the assessors praising the company for the great strides it had made in not only developing but also implementing an innovative and highly effective new approach to quality management.  As the champion for the new framework, Julia Ashman has now been invited to give a special presentation at the Performance, Quality and Customer Experience Forum, which forms part of the forthcoming Professional Planning Forum 2014 annual conference in Brighton.   


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