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Case Study: South West Water

Talkcoach was asked to devise a bespoke programme as an introduction to meeting the needs of customers with communication disabilities and difficulties. This would be set within the context of the Equality Act.2010 and the importance of recognising the diversity of individual customers. A focus on developing effective communication skills, to meet the needs of all customers, would help to meet the organisation’s commitment to exceed the industry average.

Overall aims
To enable staff to:
• Understand equal access for customers with communication disabilities and difficulties in the context of current legislation – the Equality Act 2010 and Ofwat guidance.
• Be aware of the factors that influence effective telephone communication
• Develop their effective listening skills
• Develop skills in building rapport in order to communicate effectively with all customers
• Develop strategies for providing information in a manner that meets the needs of individual customers
• Identify callers who have communication difficulties/disabilities
• Respond to calls from individuals with communication needs with increased confidence and effectiveness

The approach
Two 3 hour sessions were separated by a period of three or four weeks to give time for learning to be reinforced by experience. The sessions were limited to a maximum of 12 participants to enable individuals to gain an enhanced understanding of their knowledge, skills and areas of strength, and to identify areas for development.
The sessions:
• were interactive with small group work
• included structured individual assessment and reflection
• provided opportunities to share and reflect on communication challenges
• used video and audio clips to illustrate communication difficulties/disabilities
• included materials to support and develop learning.

All delegates rated the content and delivery excellent, very good or good.
We asked delegates to rate their knowledge before and after the sessions on a scale from 1 (no knowledge) to 10 (complete knowledge), producing a 133% improvement.

We asked delegates to rate their confidence before and after the sessions on a scale from 1(no confidence) to 10 (complete confidence), producing a 64% improvement.

We also asked about what they had learnt, what was most useful, and what they enjoyed.
Three themes emerged in the responses: learning about disabilities, the impact they can have on individuals and conversations with them, and how to deal with them. A typical comment:
I learnt ...“that I may be dealing with people who have communication disabilities without realising it, and how to better address the customer as a consequence.”
We were able to make some further recommendations regarding how new recruits can be brought up to speed and how to ensure knowledge and skill in this area can be refreshed.

"It was informative, and I found, eye-opening. I think I will take that bit extra time now to wonder if there may be a reason for the caller’s behaviour."