Headlines: September 29th, 2009

Specialist training to help councils and other public bodies improve their customer services has been launched nationally following a pilot scheme led by the Merseyside Improvement and Efficiency Partnership. Six local authorities and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service used the one-day training course.

The training, ‘Welcome Host for Local Authorities’ introduces course members to the principles of customer service in a local authority environment. It is designed to help organisations introduce a more customer-focused culture and to give frontline staff new skills and knowledge. The national launch comes as public views of local services play a more important part in Comprehensive Area Assessment, the Place Survey and the National Indicator Set.

The course is part of the Welcome to Excellence suite of customer service training, which has so far been undertaken by more than 320,000 people. The Improvement and Efficiency Partnership initially funded in-house trainers and 200 course places at each local authority. The Programme Manager, Melissa Holt, said: “Improving customer service was a shared capacity-building requirement when we first considered the issue, back in 2007.” She said Welcome Host had been most fit for purpose and added: “It allowed us to rapidly train the trainers and for large numbers of courses to be rolled out across organisations, making an immediate impact on customer service.”

Sue Gill, who is Head of Training and Skills at Tourism South East, and national lead for Welcome to Excellence training, said feedback had been very positive and staff had changed their approach to customer service as a result. “The principles of customer service are valuable for all organisations with thousands of frontline staff like councils, whether it is in specific service delivery, or in a general customer contact environment,” she said.