Setting the Standard in the South Lakes

Published : Tue 28th Aug Author : John Moffat

Hi, I’m John Moffat, the General Manager of the South Lakes property, which looks after most of the legacy of Beatrix Potter, including the iconic and international destination of Hill Top. For me, it’s impossible to think of a more inspiring place to live and work with both houses and fantastic countryside welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. And personally and professionally, there’s always a lot going on here. At the moment, we’re one of just 40 National Trust places involved in rolling out our brand new service promise – big, exciting, important stuff.

The story so far

First off, what is our service promise? Basically, it’s our commitment to delivering exceptional customer service every single time to every single visitor and customer. While we have both countryside and built sites in our portfolio, we work as one team and it’s really important that we’re all consistent in the ethics and standards we set. For me, this means Service Leadership needs to be rolled out across all of our teams, to every member of staff, no matter what their role and it is absolutely led and lived from me personally. Anybody who delivers a service, whether internal to the Trust colleagues or external to our visitors and customers, has to be giving exceptional service every day.  This includes everyone – full time and seasonal staff and our many volunteers.

Everything we’ve learned so far has been extremely useful and we’ll certainly continue on this path. It’s is great to hear the Trust talking about service again and setting a national standard. It’s really useful to have some consistency and having it flagged up as a national service promise really helps me drive it through to my team. It’s also helped to bring our people together and acknowledge that they are all part of one team. My colleagues here in the South Lakes understand that if they give bad customer service to visitors in one area, it could ruin the excellent customer service those visitors received somewhere else. We’re all one and the same, we’re all National Trust. The knowledge that we’re looking for exceptional service from our staff and volunteers every single time they come into contact with someone on our property is really becoming apparent to them with the help of the promise.

What’s next?

We’re using a mixture of our property team briefs, monthly team meetings, and one-to-ones to establish a new standard of customer service. Every month, we do a refresher on one of the elements of the service promise: we’ll talk about the promise itself, the four different values, and a more general one on segmentation and visitor experience that will give us a six month cycle that will be continually repeated. We’ve also made sure that the recruitment process for all of our staff includes a customer service scenario – and this is being rolled out to volunteers as well. We’ll talk to candidates about the promise and say ‘here are our values, what would you do in this situation’. It’s important that they know what we expect from them, as well as them knowing what to expect from us. The fact that the promise itself is so simple really helps people get it!

We also want anyone who comes onto a property to be identifiable by Trust clothing and a badge. By that we mean colleagues from other sites or from the region or Central Office. We’re setting high standards here and we want anyone else from the Trust who visits us to meet them too – even if they are walking through the garden to a meeting, they can make or break someone’s experience.

The challenges ahead

We’re well on the way to making the service promise a reality, but we appreciate that there’s more we need to do. We need to roll-out the service promise to our volunteers too. Making sure that they are aware of the service promise is a big, big job – there’s so many of them! Trying to deliver the sessions to everyone when most of our properties are open seven days a week isn’t easy but it’s something we’re working hard to do. After all, we need to set a standard and keep our customer service consistent. There’s no point ensuring that our staff know our values if our volunteers don’t.

Top tips

How do we go about getting everyone involved and behind the new service promise? Flexibility’s important. When we couldn’t find two consecutive days to conduct the workshop, we just spaced them out and this actually worked out better for us. And I knew I wanted every member of our team to be part of it and linked to the Promise – and this has been crucial, including getting some of our consultants involved in the process. We all know it’ll take time, energy and commitment. Sometimes, we might have to rearrange our priorities but it has to be top of our list if we want to make it happen. And make it happen we will!