How Driver and Vehicle Services at the Department of Transport changed customer perceptions and improved employee engagement

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Steve Mitchinson is A/ General Manager, Driver and Vehicle Services at the Department of Transport (let’s save keystrokes and refer to them as DVS).  DVS is responsible for the effective management of over 1.8 million registered drivers and over 3.5 million registered vehicles and manages revenue collection and disbursement of over $2 billion on behalf of government.

In the beginning…

Steve connected with us because he wanted DVS to be the ‘shining light of public sector service delivery which would change customer perceptions and improve employee engagement’.

When Steve took on the role in November 2015, he told us he uncovered an organisation with a lack of visibility to meaningful measures of performance and outcomes, with an under performing workforce created by a lack of understanding and support for the front-line challenges.

Steve invited AKS to support him and his team in implementing a program of Operational Excellence based on their adoption of the Shingo Model.  This program was to run across an organisation of 600 staff, 10 sites and 300 service partners, and a $150m a year operating budget.   

After spending some time with Steve and his key leadership team understanding their objectives, challenges and the environment, we designed and delivered a one-day program entitled ‘Moving to Excellence’ with the aim of improving Customer Service by focusing on Emotional Intelligence Skills.

This workshop was piloted with the frontline customer service team in the Karratha Vehicle Licensing Centre.   The Regional Director of the Pilbara fed back that:

“The facilitator was exceptionally engaging and had even the most recalcitrant of team members participating.  The focus was on how positive interaction with colleagues and customers results in great customer service and also creates individual job satisfaction and personal fulfilment.  The facilitator also spent some time on how to provide feedback in a productive manner. I have received feedback from a driving assessor who has found these tips immediately useful.

 I recommend booking AKS if you have identified any common themes within your team in relation to ‘attributes’ or behaviours that could improve customer service; customers being each other as well as external customers.”

The positive feedback kicked of the project in earnest and we rolled out a series of workshops for approximately 35 people in each licensing centre across 9 metro centres. Customer focus

Session one: Focus on Values and Behaviours part 1 – half day

This session started out with an introduction from Steve who travelled to each location with the Manager of Business Centres Gregg Whitehall and spent the ½ day in the session with the teams.  This was particularly valuable because he was hearing directly from frontline team members.  

The AKS facilitator then led a discussion relating to philosopher Martin Buber’s work on how we experience the world around us. Buber was concerned with people’s sense of self and the choices we make.  The conversation then moved to a discussion about where their sense of control exists – “above or below the line”. 

We then morphed into a discussion about Values and set to work on unpacking the behaviours that went along with those values.   The end outcome was for the staff to create something like a “Code of Conduct” or “Rules of the Game” and ideas on how to implement them.  

Session Two: Focus on Values and Behaviours part 2 – half day

We began by asking participants what they had done with the work that that had been created in the previous session.  Many had taken no action (!).  This was an opportune time to apply some gentle pressure to remind them that conversations alone are not enough.  Actions must be taken to create change. 

The facilitator helped participants workshop what actions could be taken to implement the previous work.   Some centres did this very easily – others had more resistance and some objections that we worked through.  Again, the DVS leadership team were here for the discussions and worked brilliantly to help move the teams through the paces.  

We then introduced participants to a concept regarding internal states of mind toward others (customers, co-workers and whole organisations).  This concept was all about choosing a productive and appropriate mindset to get them out of the angst toward others.

After a fun presentation, participants were asked to consider who they were in the box with.  Co-workers? Customers? Management? Great discussion ensued and there was a prevalent topic that came up regarding customers and that is they didn’t feel they had a great way to handle challenging customers. 

Session Three: Handling Difficult Customers Session – 1-Day

The session started with a discussion to elicit ways that customers show up as challenging or difficult.  We then workshopped the neuro-physical impact of Positive and Negative language and discussed concepts like how powerful language is; the need to be aware of the language we use; how often our words are chosen by our habits and how it is often easier to come up with negative words than positive.  We introduce ways to handle conflict and participants undertook a listening game to examine how we listen and what distracts us.

Turning Point

Employee engagement This session contained the defining items that made the difference in people being more capable of handling challenge in their environment. As a result of this session the culture was truly changing, and people were becoming far more resilient and confident, particularly in their interactions with customers.  

DVS has reported that the rapid decline in customer aggression incidents has been remarkable as staff now have the skills to deal more effectively with incidents of aggression as they arise. This has had a dramatic impact on engagement. Senior Management have recently commented that they had never seen the levels of energy across the network so high and all leaders have remarked on the transformation in their teams.

Session Four:  E-Concierge Communication Program – half day

This session gave practical skills in how to handle face to face greetings and “crowd management” issues to support the staff with the physical changes that were taking place at the licensing centres. This included introducing a new queueing system – the E-Concierge and introduction of some “self-serve” channels for customers.   This new model was to incorporate the use of iPads and moving a person (or people) to the front of the building to act as concierge – and direct people to systems and self-serve when and where appropriate.  The objective of the session was to help people get comfortable with the new way of being. 

This session was piloted with the team in Midland. They moved buildings and staff had been instrumental in completely reworking how the inside of the building was to look, feel and operate.  Our facilitator attended an iPad training session to get a feel for how it would all work and then created the content for a ½ Day session.

Leadership Development

Alongside the work with the frontline teams, we recommended and delivered a one-day session entitled Handling Difficult Leadership Conversations.  This workshop aimed to connect leaders to the importance of properly constructed and implemented operational and behavioural standards, provide leaders with a framework for having challenging performance conversations, give leaders tools and techniques for handling all forms of performance interactions. 

Word of mouth  

By this time, the word about our 1-Day course Handling Challenging Customers was beginning to spread to other departments.  The infringements department sent one person along to one of the 1-Day workshops to get a feel for the course.  They sent back rave reviews, and this was then implemented across that entire department with the focus was on call handling instead of Face to Face interactions

What do the participants feel?

Steve told us that he has been overwhelmed with the feedback and gratitude shown by the staff.   This course was so well received, that the participants demanded Steve provide a feedback form, so they could share with AKS how great they felt.

What did the participants say?

‘The content was amazing.  I could relate to so much that was being said’. 

“I could happily have done a week of this training!”

“Possibly the best facilitator I have ever had….and I have done a substantial number of courses!”

And what did Steve have to say about his experience in working with Alive & Kicking Solutions?

He shared:

“Working with Alive & Kicking has changed our workforce behaviour significantly and this had delivered substantial benefits for our staff and customers alike.

I would recommend Alive & Kicking to anyone looking to improve employee engagement and customer service levels.

There can be no better quote than ‘Thanks for allowing us to do the training Steve, the AKS training has changed my life forever – Claire*”

The bottom line

  • Unplanned leave is down dramatically
  • 90% of customers report being very satisfied with overall experience
  • Wait times have halved
  • Complaints have reduced by 75%
  • Reported aggression incidents are down 75%
  • The security guard contract ceased in May 2017 as staff were now confident they could effectively deal with all situations





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