24 June 2016
Coaching customers to a stronger future
Luisa was given a very straightforward brief. “We want an equal relationship with our customers.” Find out how she's doing.
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In her last post, Luisa Hatcher, colleague coach for Bromford talked about the ideas behind the decision to move towards a coaching approach when working with customers. Here she shares some examples of how this is working in practice.
Over the last ten months or so I’ve been spending time out and about with all of our housing managers. On average, I usually watch them interact with four or five of our customers and during these visits I look at how well they can build rapport with their customers and how well they communicate; predominantly how good they are at listening, questioning and whether they naturally encourage and praise people.
It’s also crucial for me to see whether a customer’s vulnerabilities are being acknowledged and addressed. It’s really important to see what kind of approach colleagues take – are they more of an enforcer, rescuer or a natural coach? Once the visits for the day are done, I like to head off for a coffee with the housing manager to talk them through my thoughts and the various coaching and questioning approaches they could adopt.
I’m pleased to say these sessions are starting to make a real difference, but don’t just take my word for it. Here are a couple of stories that have been shared with me recently.
Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is an issue that our housing managers have to deal with on a regular basis. Nicola Mann has been working with a family who were issued with a notice to leave their home (section 21) because of ASB. The dad was well known for arguing with neighbours and getting into trouble in the village where they live.
Our new coaching approach encourages colleagues to spend more time getting to know their customers and this has been crucial in this case.
By taking the time to listen to the dad, Nicola discovered that his anger issues stemmed from the death of his father. He was really angry and upset and reacted badly when antagonised by the neighbours. By building trust with him over time, Nicola was able to talk through the options open to him. After thinking these through, the dad made the decision that bereavement counselling could help.
Another issue that needed addressing was the condition of the property. Instead of telling the customers what to do, Nicola involved the whole family in the conversations around how best to move forward. Between them they decided that a cleaning rota would work well, and the children showed their parents how to create one on their computer.
An important part of coaching is praising and encouraging and this is something that comes naturally to Nicola. She calls to the house regularly to see how things are going, making sure that she spends time praising the children for their hard work in helping to keep their home clean and tidy – they are so proud of themselves.
By spending time making a connection with this family and encouraging them to come up with their own solutions to the problems they faced, Nicola has made such a difference. A year after being on the brink of losing their home, there is no more ASB with dad learning how to deal with his anger issues, their home is in great condition and, because of all this, the family now have a five-year tenancy. Nicola says she’s so proud of them all.
Sometimes, the things most us of take for granted are the things that cause others the most worry. Janice Hutton told me about Jane* who really struggles with her confidence and has always shied away from making phone calls.
Jane needed to call housing benefit to talk about her claim and asked Janice to do it. In the past we might have done this for her to ensure that housing benefit was being paid, but in the long-term, this doesn’t help the customer. Janice recognised the customer’s anxieties so she took the time to role play a typical call with Jane until she felt confident enough to make the telephone call herself.
This is a great example of how spending a little extra time with our customers, getting to know them and helping them work through their worries can really empower them to deal with situations they find difficult.
These are just two examples of how coaching is helping to change the relationship we have with our customers and I’ll be posting regular updates from our housing managers so watch this space. I love this illustration
Just before I go, I wanted to share a comment from a colleague that really means a lot to me.
I am beginning to understand what a difference coaching can really make. By asking the right questions, and getting the customer to reach the conclusion without telling them the answer, they themselves feel more empowered to act upon it. I feel it also helps when building a relationship with the customer as they feel more equal to me rather than seeing me as being in a position of power. This helps them open up and talk to me more so I can understand the barriers facing them.
When we started this process we were heading into the unknown, which obviously brings uncertainty, so it’s great to hear that both colleagues and customers are starting to see the benefits of this coaching approach – long may it continue.