It will come as little surprise that we have a robust customer service training programme in place.
But I think we are unusual in extending this training to everyone in our business, and many of our supplier partners, because they all deal with customers.
Whether it's someone in the senior leadership team working with a junior member of staff, a surveyor instructing a supplier partner, an on-site team liaising with our accounts payable department at head office, or any conversation for that matter, we think it’s important to treat each person as you would your most important customer.
Everyone should treat every interaction in business as if the other person is a customer irrespective of the nature of the relationship, simply because we think it’s better for business. Part of the reason for this is that the property industry has for many years been defined by vendor / client dynamics where one party exerts power over the other - which can lead to miscommunication, tension, and unnecessary conflict.
Challenging this industry norm was one of the establishing principles for Ashdown Phillips, when founding Directors Richard and Kate Phillips set the business up in 2004. They believed there was a better way to manage property and set out to become the closest thing to an in-house service a client could find.
Born from a desire to distinguish ourselves from other property management companies, we wanted to focus on establishing the highest standards of customer service, hiring, developing, and retaining great people, and achieving sustainable organic growth - where good business practices are understood to be an investment in profitability and growth, rather than a cost.
So as a people-centric business, we wanted to make sure our values of being focused, expert, connected and happy became part and parcel of the everyday. The challenge for a business when it grows is it can become disconnected from its values. The ethos of the founders can get lost in the day-to-day, and we didn’t want this to happen to us.
For this reason, we developed Dare To Be Brilliant, our own customer-service training programme, in 2017, partnering with MGI Learning to create a bespoke course using their Mindset, Language & Actions Toolkit. It works by creating a clear feedback loop between what we think and feel (our thoughts) and what we say and do (our actions) and by aligning the two we can communicate more openly and build trusted relationships.
We felt the impact as we were going into lockdown in early 2020 and adjusting to remote working. We needed to find a way to enable those of our people who had to stay on site to manage buildings- and trust was critical to getting the job done safely, with due consideration for the needs of both our clients, occupiers, service partners and our staff.
The toolkit provided an essential framework for us to communicate effectively with many people, offering guidance and advice in the best way that we could. It enhanced our ability to self-manage whilst remaining positive and solution focused. Important operational tasks like creating rotas and arranging door-to-door taxis so our people could avoid public transport became easier, helping us reduce stress during those intense months, as did multiple Teams and Zoom calls by making sure people felt supported and connected.
Giving people flexibility, reinforcing trust and respect, helped us recognise that we are a tremendously hard working, bonded team who can truly make a difference. Three years on, all of our staff will be participating in the relaunched programme with the help of our own internal trainers John Magee, Lorna Wright and Steve Salisbury, who have recently been through MGI’s “Train-the-Trainer” Accreditation process. Congratulations to all of them.
Dare To Be Brilliant is now a central pillar of our onboarding process for all employees and we now have the means to put every new starter through it in their first three months of employment with us. Our monthly Dare Devil and Dare Devil Partner awards, where people nominate their colleagues, service partners, clients, or occupiers for examples of excellent customer service has further established itself as part of our culture. And we have also started to extend the training to our supplier partners as well. We truly see them not as vendors, but as an extension of our team.
Though often said, I am proud to be part of a business that’s walking the talk and backing up its convictions with concrete action by daring to be brilliant.
Paul Robins, Director and MGI Accredited Trainer.