In your role as a work coach you will deal with customers on a daily basis the definition of a customer for the purpose of the work coach role can be defined as a person or organization who requires our service.
You will deal with two types of customer internal and external, below are two examples but these are not the only customers you may come across on a regular basis.
In your role as work coach on universal credit you will laisse with the Universal Credit (UC) Service Centre and they are one internal customer. The level of service they expect from you is to support the delivery of services to external customers enhancing and assistant their customer service role. You can do this by making the best of our digital channels to maintain contact with them over any customer issues that may arise that they require your support with enabling a joint approach to managing claimants and their accounts, supporting our external customers to the highest standard possible. Ensuring queries are answered; payments are made on time and ensuring a seamless and hassle free journey for the customers we share. In order to maintain this symbiotic relationship, it is important that both parties agree to act in a professional manner, treating each other with respect and fairness. In addition to this we need to recognize the differences, values and skills individuals and teams bring to the relationship. If services are not being delivered to the agreed standards and attempts to resolve the failings are unsuccessful issues need to be escalated through appropriate channels. This will then ensure that we fulfill our organizational team and individual objectives. Namely the reduction of poverty and worklessness, whilst promoting growth and opportunities for all.
The main external customer/s work coaches have, consist of Universal Credit claimants. These consist of a diverse group of individuals with their own specific needs and circumstances. We currently deal with Universal Credit claimants that are self-employed, have health issues, lone parents and those actively seeking employment for example. Each client and client group expects you to behave in line with the department’s customer charter. So each individual with their own circumstances is treated with empathy, respect and fairness. Work coaches should use their communication and listening skills to ascertain the customer’s circumstances and explain what is expected of them to maintain their payment of universal credit. You should ensure they understand these commitments and the consequences of not abiding by them. In return they can expect you to provide them with the support they need to successfully move closer to, into work and increase their earnings. They can also expect you to explain things should they go wrong and help them correct their behaviors to ensure the issues don’t arise again. They can expect you to use my knowledge and experience to guide them. They will also expect you to ensure thier personal information is kept confidential and secure.
As a work coach you will be expected to support your caseload move closer and into work. You will do this by employing a variety of techniques and below we are going to explore the advantages and disadvantages of some of the techniques you will use.
Information, advice and guidance
This will be something you will employ regularly as a work coach and will probably be the mainstay of your work. One advantage to this method is that we can use it to support a wide range of customers. We deploy this to assist them make decisions based on their individual circumstances and needs. Providing the correct information, advice and guidance allows them to make an informed decision based on their individual circumstances and needs. Another advantage to this is the customer will ultimately feel they have made the decision and thus be more committed to the outcome leading to a greater chance of success. The main drawback to this method is the need to ensure the information advice and guidance offered is unbiased and factually correct so we need to ensure as work coaches our knowledge base is constantly kept up to date. Providing inaccurate information could lead to misdirection and the customer being given a poor service. The information is also open to misinterpretation by the service user and individuals can interpret advice and guidance in different ways which can lead to misunderstanding and undermine trust. So when dealing with service users we must ensure there understanding of the information, advice or guidance is interpreted in the way it was intended by questioning their understanding of what has been given.
Definition of technical information associated with operation, use, process, or system. In relation the work coach role this would be not only IT skills but the knowledge we have around training providers, Processes and support mechanisms.
Having technical information will allow you to carry out your work coach role within the department which in turn will help the department deliver on its customer service goals. We can use our technologies and technical information to ensure we operate our systems correctly this is allow you to ensure vital tasks are completed correctly and on time, payments being issued for example or assist customers with queries and even locate the relevant information you wish to share. This ensures customer service and relations are maintained. Another advantage to this is that using technical information can show a customer you are confident it what you are discussing with them and can inspire confidence in your abilities within the customer helping to established trust. There are downsides to consider as well, for example if you are confident in your technical knowledge you may not explain it to the customer correctly using terminology they don’t understand. As a universal credit coach you will be expected to communicate to customers via IT systems and be able to show and explain to them how it is operated, you need to take care not to pitch you vocabulary at the correct level and check understanding. Another disadvantage to this is differing levels of knowledge with the work coach team itself this can lead to information not being consistent leads to confusion if a customer has dealt with more than one work coach especially when dealing with the most venerable of society.
Signposting means directing an enquirer to other more suitably qualified legal representatives where the registered organization cannot provide the service required, or lacks the capacity to do so.
For example as a work coach you will not have the skills to instruct someone to drive a fork lift truck and as an organization the DWP also can not perform this task, however the DWP work in partnership with training organizations who can so you are able to give the customer information on where they can fulfill this need. This is signposting and it allows us to fulfill those needs that we are not equipped or qualified to do allowing. Another advantage to signposting is that it allows the customer to gain information independently of the work coach for example you might signpost the customer to the citizens advice beaux for further advice on what benefits they may be able to claim. As a Work coach you will undoubtedly know this information and may well have communicated this to the customer but signposting them to get independent advice can simply boost their confidence in the information you have given them. You can also use signposting to empower the customer giving them basic information like a website to look at to gain the answers for themselves can increase there confidence levels. Disadvantages of signposting include a lack of control over the information given or time scales, if the fork lift course is popular for example it mat take a while to get the customer started on it, this can cause issues as a work coach as customers may become resistant or apathetic to other activities such as job search stating things such as “I cant get a job till I get that fork lift license… so theirs no point looking”. Creating a new barrier to progress rather than resolving an existing one.
How organisational change can affect delivery of customer service
The department of Work and Pensions is a constantly evolving and changing government body the biggest change in recent times is the introduction of Universal Credit that is currently taking place throughout the country. This is a massive undertaking not only for our customers but for you as a work coach as well. Universal Credit promotes personal responsibility on behalf of the customer something that in the past the benefit system hindered. It places the responsibility for actively seeking employment, increasing earnings and maintaining their information firmly at the customer’s door. It is the work coach’s role to ensure that we continue to support our customers in this especially those who need it most. The underlying ethos to Universal Credit is doing what’s best for the customer, so as a work coach quality service should be at the forefront of everything you do.
To support this change the department put it to place a new Work Coach Delivery Model to help the transition between what have become known as “legacy” or “historical” benefits to Universal credit. It introduced a mixed case load approach as part of its development meaning that work coaches would be working with a larger customer base often with more complex needs than they traditionally would have managed and removing the need for specialist advisers. This means that a customer can remain with the same work coach irrespective of how there life may change. This helps maintain rapport and confidence, removes the need for the claimant to repeat information that may be distressing and improves the continuity of the support the work coach can offer and ultimately the service the department provides. However as we move away from the specialist work coach role we must be mindful to ensure that we maintain our own skills and knowledge to enable us to maintain and improve customer service.
Maintaining customer service during transformation is imperative. We can not risk losing customer satisfaction, reputation and confidence during the change period. Therefor the change needs to be well planned to minimize its impact on staff and customers reducing the resistance from all parties involved. If the transformation is not handled well it can have wide ranging implications. It can impact on staffs health and wellbeing, a breakdown in trust with management and decrees in moral, which will inevitably lead to reduced job satisfaction and a down turn in productivity that will impact on customer service. If staff are not properly equipped and trained to deal with the new working environment this will also impact on there ability to fulfill there new role and again have a negative impact on the services offered to customers. Employees being ill equipped to carry out there role will again negatively impact on staffs wellbeing and moral and in a customer facing environment these issues will be apparent to the customer no matter how professionally the staff present themselves. It is imperative that any change is managed positively to reduce these factors.
The change will also have a direct impact on our customers themselves and it is vital that we present it to them in a positive manor encouraging them to erase the change and minimize any fears they face by ensuring that any information ion is factually correct and supporting them through your work coach role to ensure they have confidence in there own ability to manage there information and educating them on how the changes will affect them and the service they receive. The work coach role is vital in ensuring the success of any change especially one as fundamental as Universal Credit.
If the change is managed correctly via good communication, consultation and meeting any development needs. Then the organizational goals will be met whilst maintain customer service levels within expectable parameters. However it is important to note that with a change as large and wide reaching as the change to Universal Credit is even the best plan will have some negativity attached to it and will probably have some detrimental impact on customer service as you go through the learning curve. The aim should then be to return to excellence as soon as possible using the information gathered through lessons learned so the same mistakes are not repeated time and time again and become embedded in new processes so deep that they will be difficult to overcome.
The Customer Service Champion
Customer service is the department’s ability to meet the needs of its complex customer base whilst delivering on its operational aims and objectives. By demonstrating outstanding customer service it allows us to form relationships with our customers and building trust. Outstanding customer service increases customer satisfaction and reduces compliant handling. It increases staff moral and thus increases productivity which in turn leads to a leaner organization with reduced waste and costs. This in turn should impact on customer satisfaction and the cycle continues.
To embed a customer service culture within the work coach role communication is essential. This communication between management and staff and staff and customers needs to be easily understandable, factual accurate and above all easily accessible. It is important that you are well trained and knowledgeable in the process and good practices promoted by the department. You will need to remain customer focused and remember the importance of customer service in every interaction and task you do. Ensuring you incorporate the values of the organization in everything you do ensuring you remain professional and efficient.
In order to ensure we maintain customer service levels going forward we need to engage with our customers at every opportunity taking on board feedback and evaluating the service we offer ensuring we continually make improvements where needed.. You will also receive feedback from managers, team leaders and colleagues that will help you improve your own skills. You should also ensure you support any ad hoc customer surveys that aid in the gathering of this information.
In order to support your colleagues with customer services and to promote customer service practices. Accomplishments should be shared. You should also reward good practices recognized in yourself or others via a simple “well done” or one of the departments reward and recognition schemes. This encourages good customer service in others by highlighting examples.
You will always do your best to resolve any issues but there will be times where the resolution is beyond your abilities or accountabilities, so you need to be knowledgeable of the customer complaints and compliments procedures for those issues you are unable to resolve and be able to communicate these to customers.
- How to manage change- ACAS https://www.acas.org.uk/media/2673/Advisory-booklet—How-to-manage-change/pdf/Acas-How-to-manage-change-advisory-booklet.pdf
- Rewrad and recognition https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/page/dwp-award-and-recognition
- Good news stories https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/section/organisation/work-and-health-services-group/uc-one-service-central-england-and-wales/north-and-east-midlands-group-homepage/good-news-stories
- Five golden rules to complaint resolution https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/page/five-golden-rules-complaint-resolution
- Small changes big difference https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/page/small-changes-big-difference
- Customer Charter https://intranet.dwp.gov.uk/page/our-customer-charter-0