Monthly Archives: August 2015

Engage Customer – Whats holding back your Customer Service Excellence?

According to research by First Direct inadequate service is costing UK companies £7.7bn a year in lost business, with people increasingly turning their back on brands that don’t deliver.

However, it’s not all about lost profits; poor customer service can damage brand reputation, cause customer defection and in regulated industries, increase the risks of financial penalties says Amanda Green.

Poor customer service can make or break a business, and in today’s tough business environment companies need to ensure their customer service advisors are the best they can be.

There have been many high profile cases of companies having to pay millions in compensation for giving mis-leading advice to customers. For example investigations by energy regulator; Ofgem have led to some record fines for energy companies, the highest to date to E-ON who last year was ordered to pay £12million back to customers.

Companies can however often find that despite all the training they throw at staff, all the knowledge management they can muster and all the away-days, intranet sites and e-Learning investments they’ve made, customer service staff still makes errors in the way they deal with customer queries or complaints.

The problem is that the solution isn’t immediately obvious. After all, most organisations of stature already have comprehensive Learning and Development tools and processes, in house training teams and their own Knowledge Management Facility in place.

What’s the problem?

The first symptoms that a business may notice is lower than expected scores on customer satisfaction surveys, increased call backs to the contact centres, and increased customer complaints or a longer than average time to resolve a customer query.

This can be despite staff getting satisfactory or good results on tests, training courses and questionnaires, and there already being comprehensive learning and support materials available via an internal Knowledge Management system.

The standard response of more training and one to one coaching is unlikely to yield any real improvement either, unless the root causes of why this is happening are uncovered. These are more often than not the result of one of the following three situations:

1. People don’t truly understand what they’ve been “told”

Typically one root cause is that giving people knowledge does not mean that they truly understand how, when and why they should use it. After all, the typical multiple choice questionnaire handed out at the end of a training course, can only really measure the ability to select the right answer from a list of possible answers more often than not.  It does not and cannot identify if a person truly understands in what specific circumstance they should apply their new knowledge.

2. People are 100% confident they do know and they do understand – when in fact they don’t

This root cause is insidious and is often the most damaging because it’s very hard to uncover. It’s further compounded by the fact that people will come to work believing they’re doing a great job. They will wholeheartedly believe that the advice or response they’ve given to a customer query is the right one and they will be happy and confident that they’ve followed the correct company process and procedure along the way.

When asked to attend a training or refresher course people can wrongly believe they already know and understand well, which in turn makes them approach the course with the wrong motivation; a desire and intent to simply “get through it and tick the boxes”, rather than with a genuine interest or agenda for re-examining the subject and challenging their own understanding and experiences.

3. The tools and resources provided are not used to best advantage

Most organisations make significant investment in Learning and Development Systems, tools, materials and expertise and many have made an even greater investment in organising, maintaining and syndicating industry and “Corporate Knowledge” via a central Knowledge Management System.

However these may not be designed or presented in the best way for the end user to get the most out of them. The information provided via the Intranet or Knowledge Management solution may be excellent but if the people it’s designed to help, find it difficult, cumbersome, time consuming or intimidating to find, they simply won’t use it all.

The solution 

Cultivating ‘outstanding’ customer service is challenging however, it is not impossible. The key to winning and keeping customers is by delivering a consistently high performance of service to customers that will turn them into loyal fans and identifying and addressing risky and unacceptable behaviour before it becomes a problem.

What seems to be overlooked in many companies is that organisational effectiveness lies not in how well processes are engineered but whether employees actually understand what they have been trained to do and if they have the confidence to do it in the right way, every time. Typically 30% of employees in any company misunderstand at least one key aspect of their role, in spite of the fact they have received training.

A common pitfall is that companies take a ‘sheep dip,’ approach to training – delivering training that is ‘one size fits all’, untargeted and ineffective. Many companies also fail to benchmark their staff or measure what people really understand versus what they think they understand and how their knowledge is actually applied at work.

To meet the challenges of delivering consistently excellent customer service in an omni-channel environment, companies need to assess their employees to ensure they are delivering the right training, development, information and management processes that allow them to excel in their roles and keep customers happy and loyal.

Companies need to uncover the root causes of behaviour on the job and need to start by looking not at what people know but rather identifying specifically what it is they don’t understand. One way to do this is using employee assessments designed to test and measure advisors in realistic ‘on the job’ situations.

These types of assessments use situational judgement questions asking people what they would do in certain situations, such as handling a customer complaint. The results will reveal knowledge gaps and unacceptable behaviour thus giving managers a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of every individual.

It is crucial that managers understand not just how competent their staff are, but how they use their knowledge and how they apply this at work. Once gaps in understanding have been identified, companies can design specific interventions, avoiding the one-size fits all approach to training and provide appropriate learning media and resources to address it.

Today customers have high expectations and are becoming ever more demanding, especially as it is so easy to switch companies if they feel they are not getting good customer service. Organisations that can meet this challenge and provide the very best customer service and experience will be the ones that retain customers, win new ones and ultimately stay in business for the long haul.

Cognisco attending ‘Human Rights and Dementia International Conference 2015

Salford University, Manchester – 10th to 11th September 2015

12 August 2015 – Cognisco, a specialist in People Risk and employee behaviour, is attending the ‘Human Rights and Dementia International Conference 2015 in September, to present its unique Dementia* Care assessment, launched in November 2014 in partnership with care home provider, Belong.


The two-day conference at Salford University will update delegates on the progress and the policies put in place to achieve the government’s ‘dementia challenge’ that aims to improve dementia services in the UK’s health and social care system.


Cognisco will discuss how the Dementia* Care assessment works and how it could help to raise standards of dementia care in the UK – enabling care home providers to gain insight into the competency and training needs of its carers so they can be addressed to improve their knowledge and how they treat patients.

Can’t make Salford? – Join our ‘Raising Standards of Care’ webinar on September 22nd here.

The Dementia Care assessment uses situational judgement questions based on real life scenarios to test carers’ knowledge, competence and confidence in all aspects of their roles and provide insight into their competence levels and training needs.


Owen Ashby, Programme Lead – Health & Social Care at Cognisco said: “Most care providers train their staff during the induction phase; however, the effectiveness of the training is rarely evaluated in terms of how well it was understood or how much of that training and understanding actually is transferred to the frontline in practice.


Our assessment can change this as providers can accurately measure for the first time what carers truly know and how they are likely to think, act and behave when looking after patients.

This insight will enhance their training and improve the care provided to patients. We are looking forward to meeting care home providers to discuss how our assessment could transform the way they work.”


Belong introduced the Dementia* Care assessment as a pilot last November and began rolling out the full programme at the end of April into May. So far 85 out of 126 carers have taken the assessment and the conference will provide the company with an opportunity to discuss how its staff and patients are benefiting.


Phil Orton, Head of People Management & Development at Belong said, “We have introduced the assessment to staff in our care homes and we look forward to sharing our experience and findings. We think this assessment is a potential game changer for the social care sector, providing a simple and effective way of measuring competence in line with regulatory standards.”


For more information about the conference and how to attend visit:/


Training: a new approach to keep your workforce safe

Ensuring your workforce is safe at work is essential in every industry – businesses must have adequate measures in place to protect their staff and that ensure their training programmes are robust.

Often one of the shortcomings of training and assessment in many companies is that they focus on assessing knowledge, rather than how people apply that knowledge on the job. Just because someone has attended a training course, it doesn’t mean they are competent and confident about applying their knowledge in the correct way at work.

Cognsico has been working with companies in the utilities sector to address this issue and has developed a new approach to tackling health and safety.

One of the biggest risks for engineers working in the utilities sector is accidentally striking underground cables. An estimated 60,000 underground cable strikes occur every year, which can cause serious injury or death and cost businesses millions of pounds in associated damages and compensation costs.


Reducing the number of cable strikes is an issue that has challenged the utilities sector for many years. Despite deploying a variety of cable avoidance tools, staff training and learning and development programmes, incidents are still happening.

Thames Water is tackling this issue head on. In April this year, it embarked on a five year project that will upgrade all its Victorian waterways and sewage works. This is a huge project with several leading companies providing engineers.

To ensure the safety and compliance of all engineers and contractors working on the project, Thames Water has insisted that all those working on its new waterways upgrade project demonstrate their competence and confidence in relation to cable strike avoidance before starting work.

Eight2O – a leading alliance partner for Thames Water and Optimise, a key contractor to Thames Water – have adopted our Cable Avoidance Evaluation assessment which offers a new approach to traditional cable strike avoidance training based on the latest behavioural training and assessment techniques.


The assessment is designed to improve the competence, knowledge and attitudes of engineers by enabling managers and supervisors to uncover specific training requirements that will improve the competence, performance and safety of individual workers. The aim is to reduce the risk of underground cable strikes and improve safety standards, ensuring compliance with all safety standards set by Thames Water.

The assessment uses situational judgement questions based on realistic scenarios that workers encounter daily and measures the knowledge, competence and confidence of workers in all aspects of the role. The results reveal what people know, as well as their behaviour and attitude towards risk, and highlight any knowledge gaps and specific training needs so they can be addressed.

This unique approach provides managers with visibility of what individuals truly know and understand, any areas of misunderstanding, which if not addressed could compromise their safety or put them or the company at risk. By building up a picture of an individual or teams’ likely behaviour in certain situations and where potential risks lie, a company can plan for remedial action.

This insight enables companies to deliver tailored training and development for every individual, eradicate unacceptable behaviours and to rationalise training spend. Through this innovative assessment, companies will understand who their most competent engineers are and those that might place themselves or the company at risk.   Employees can then be given the essential training interventions needed or even taken off the job until they have improved their competence levels and can demonstrate they are fit to practice.


To date, 1,035 plus individuals from 28 different companies working through Optimise have participated in the Cable Avoidance Evaluation. Optimise is ensuring they have a competent, qualified and compliant workforce and is helping to build a culture of self-development and learning. The company is also helping to safeguard their workers from the risk of cable strikes.

Thames Water is leading the way in putting safety first and it’s anticipated that this technique will make a huge impact in reducing the number of cable strikes on the project. By demonstrating best practice on such a high profile project it’s hoped this will also help raise industry-wide safety standards and lead to a reduction in cable strikes across the whole of the utilities sector. This approach can also be used across other sectors such as construction.

Engineers working through Eight2O and Optimise are taking the assessment programme through our Competency and People Risk Platform my*KNOW, which integrates with a company’s existing learning and development systems.

Through my*KNOW, companies have a single point through which employees and their managers take assessments, see and manage reports, identify priorities, gain access to relevant learning material, collate and present evidence, build and manage teams and competencies and provide reports and analytics back to the business.

Are banks being let off the hook?

It was recently announced that the Banking Standards Board (BSB), the City body that is tasked with changing the UK banking system for the better, will be quizzing banks about their ethics and culture.

All major UK banks including Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Standard Chartered are to participate in BSB’s review.

Earlier in the month it was announced that another City body responsible for helping to regulate the banking sector, the Financial Conduct Authority, will lose Martin Wheatley its Chief Executive as Chancellor, George Osborne won’t renew his contract.


Mr Wheatley, the FCA’s head since it launched in April 2013, has said he is, “disappointed to be moving on” and that he leaves behind a “sense of unfinished business.”

What are customers to make of these two pieces of news? Is the banking sector going to be able to change significantly and restore people’s faith and trust in our financial institutions that have for many years been embroiled in scandal after scandal?

In June the Bank of England’s Governor Mark Carney declared the “Age of Irresponsibility” in banking was over, and he promised to tackle the ‘ethical drift’ the City of London has tolerated in its search for trading profits. In July, it was announced that the Treasury is consulting on measures that would reform the Bank of England and enhance its role as UK banking regulator. Through the proposed Bank of England Bill steps will be taken to protect taxpayers from banks failures as well as improve transparency and accountability.


George Osborne recently said: “Britain needs a tough, strong financial-conduct regulator,” but still chose to get rid of Martin Wheatley seen by many to be a “bank-basher” and who had made enemies for his tough stance on banks.

Getting rid of Mr Wheatley could be a sign however, that the government is relaxing its crackdown on bad banking behaviour – particularly as the economy is recovering and in spite of these new measures and regulations, very little information has emerged about the progress made towards change.

Whilst many banks have strengthened their governing processes since the financial crisis, many still don’t have systems in place that measure how people act or behave at work or that enable them to identify patterns of risky decision making, which is putting them at risk.


People Risk was a key theme at this year’s Retail Banking conference and it’s something retail banks need to be addressing more effectively. In our experience 30% of a company’s workforce has serious gaps in understanding or misplaced confidence which poses a consistent and significant risk to the business.

Whilst new tougher conduct rules from the Bank of England, prison sentences and fines, and the Banking Standards Board (BSB)’s review will all promote an on-going review of competence, culture and behaviour and may help to keep unethical behaviour in check, is it far enough?

Next year, the new Senior Managers Regime will hold senior managers to account for any poor decisions, and a Certification Regime will be introduced that will require firms to assess the fitness and propriety of staff in positions where the decisions they make could pose significant harm to the bank and its customers.


Mr Wheatley was referring to the implementation of the Fair and Effective Markets Review, which the FCA conducted with the Bank of England, as well as the new Senior Managers’ Regime when he mentioned “unfinished business”. It was reported he would have liked to stay in his post to ensure the change in banking culture is permanent and not temporary.

The decision not to renew Mr Wheatley’s contract at what is a crucial stage in introducing new measures to change banking behaviour for the better is worrying and indicates that the government and regulators might be letting banks off the hook.

To drive cultural change, the banking sector needs tough action from the FCA, as well as the Bank of England and the BSB. Perhaps then customers see finally see the benefits and later we can once again have a banking sector we can trust.