Karen McCarthy shares a typical day in her life as Head of Client Services for National Customer Service Week 2021.

From an early age, I knew I wanted to help people but, due to a weak stomach and a dislike for blood, hospitals were a no-go…but Customer Service found its way in!

I have always been involved in some form of Customer Service over the last 30 years, working in various kinds of call centers – some good, some bad, and some ugly!

I love working in CS as no day is the same. However, there are challenges; people will scream at you, call you all kinds of names, some will even threaten you. But sadly and eventually you just take this in your stride, as part of your day. This is why it’s important to recognise and support all client-facing workers in the #servicewithrespect campaign.

 

 

Thankfully this is not a reflection with our customers at Locale who, genuinely hand on heart, are the nicest I’ve ever dealt with. When customers say something lovely to you, it’s all worthwhile. The sense of achievement and turning something around is special.

I believe this is down to a fabulous team in CS/Production, combined with a fantastic product at Locale. This equals happy customers and an average satisfaction service level of 98% which is outstanding!

Anyway, enough about why, let’s see what’s involved in my typical days as Head of Client Services.

For me, customer service is 24/7 and it’s difficult to write about a typical day, as some may be quiet and some can take me up to midnight working behind the scenes, like tonight!  You just never know what’s going to happen or what you are walking into in the morning.

So, here’s an overview of some of my roles & responsibilities.

I like to think I lead and nurture the standards within my team and our customer base, this involves making sure all my team is trained to a very high standard, with training taking approximately 6 months.  Every one is handpicked by me, with CS skills and qualities already present, and then guided through their inductions.

I am always listening and looking internally and externally such as spot-checking emails and phone calls.  I attend monthly meetings with customers like the Shard and Quarterly steercos with companies such as BNPP.

I call our BMs, front of house, surveyors, and CEOs for feedback. I watch carefully when I am at a front of house/reception, whether it’s a customer of ours or not, what’s gone wrong, what could be done better, what do they excel in?

I give constructive feedback and most importantly give praise (I praised a young lad the other day in McDonald’s and told his boss he was a superstar!) Everyone complains, but very few praise, so please make sure when somebody gets it right you let them know.

This week alone I have attended/booked in for 28 meetings (and that’s a quiet week!), covering a variety of subjects that all link back to the client. I am preparing and working on 6 monthly workshop meetings, where we will look at every process we have in CS; why is this in place? Could it be improved? What could we do differently? Are we competitive with our offering compared to CS market leaders?  Every process, template, and reason has been considered and discussed with me at some point. Once agreed, it’s down to my very capable team to implement and accomplish.

I spend a lot of my time working closely with my Production Team Leader Sophie Johnson and Client Services Manager Gabriel Scorteanu. We constantly ask ourselves… what customer problems do we have? What system issues do we have? Are we providing adequate staff training and support? What new projects are coming in and ongoing?

Last year we completed 87 projects, some may have taken hours, others up to a year, while many remain ongoing iin the background.

Here are a few projects that we’ve introduced recently…

  • Redesign Portal order form
  • 5 step CS process
  • Customer commitment
  • Savills V3
  • Academy v2
  • Workshop process

It all has been a pivotal part of Locale and the customer journey and experience.

As I have built up the team in Locale over the last 3 years, I have now taken a back seat on day-to-day activities and I lead from the front, with Gabs/Sophie and the team implementing everything to please and look after the customer.

 

 

There are times when the customer is not happy, so I manage and support the team with escalations and try my utmost to get a good resolution for all involved. This can be time-consuming, taking anywhere from minutes to months, depending on the escalation.

While stepping back from daily CS tasks, I have found myself collaborating with other departments, through workshops, project support, and of course GDPR which I will elaborate on later.

It’s crucial that the CS & Production team have strong relationships with every department, from sales to development to marketing. I get involved as much as possible to understand all processes & requirements to provide the best support possible to them and our customers.

With the new addition of Locale Look & Locale Life to the Locale family, CS had to adapt our offering. Not only do provide customer care, but we must also be able to spot where our customers may need additional services or solutions. We also combine that with our original offering of design/UAT & technical triage supporting the development team with tickets we pass across. Now more than ever these are fundamental parts of the CS role that help the Locale Group grow and innovate.

An important responsibility of mine, as with any leadership position, is supporting the team with HR and making sure we’re all as happy as we can be. Giving great customer service can take its toll, with my staff having to listen to our customer’s problems every day.

I also work very closely with the Institute of Customer Service, benchmarking our offering and looking at what the future of CS is, and can we offer this?  Not only do our customers want tech on their portal, but they also want it within their CS. This is something that we must introduce but carefully balance the fluffy side that everyone knows and loves, and why we score so highly.

Moving on to the very large subject of looking after GDPR and data. This was kindly given to me by our Chief Operating Officer Toni Delli-Compagni when I joined Locale.

I am responsible for making sure that every data action has a consequence – good or bad, and it’s my role to train every staff member on GDPR and establish a clearly defined reporting process, such as NCR’s. Each year I keep up with government legislation to ensure our privacy and processing notices are up-to-date, and I know how to support our customers on these subjects and work with their legal teams.

I also advise on what data can be stored, deleted, where it needs to be displayed, and customer and employee rights. Logging and reporting GDPR is a huge part of my job, and I couldn’t do this without the support of our fantastic Admin Dept. And of course, when things go wrong, I ensure Locale and external parties don’t get fined and we maintain our reputations.

I welcome every new customer in, but sadly, I also manage the process along with terminations. This is something I take very personally, as I know how hard work it takes for sales to win the client, and how much care the CS/Production team have poured into their journey. As part of this process, I must make sure all hardware and monies are returned and maintain a positive relationship until the very end.

Not forgetting I am a Head of Department which comes with various projects, challenges and of course the rewards of working with a fantastic team, who inspire me daily.

The above is just a fraction of what I get involved in. I could not do all of this without an exceptional team behind me, and I would like to personally recognise and thank Gabs, Sophie, Rosie, Katherine, Amy & Rhys, and not forgetting you the wider team at Locale!

When Guy employed me, he said, “I’m worried you will be bored”. Guy, I am still waiting for that day!!

Client Services is not for everyone, but it’s for me.

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