Building your brand through your People

When I joined HomeServe, it was a company going through a tough time. For many years, it was a corporate high flyer but a mis-selling scandal left it on the wrong side of customers, regulators, media, and even its own people.

Internally, engagement was low. Only 32% of people felt as though the senior management team took the time to understand their needs and challenges, and only 47% felt that they could communicate openly to their senior leaders. The overall engagement score for my team was just 52%.

During my recruitment process, I was told that I was needed for my technical experience as a marketing professional. However, they also thought I could help build a company culture with a true focus on the customer.

Hear from your people first

I started by speaking to the people of HomeServe. I wanted to hear directly from them what their needs and challenges were — I didn’t want to read this from a survey. I spoke to hundreds of people from across the business, some of whom had been with the company over 10 years but had never had a meeting with an executive member of staff.

The real game-changer happened when, under the leadership of our new UK CEO Martin Bennett, we created the strategy for our business for the years ahead, which we called Effortless 2020. In the strategy, we concluded that the only way to build our brand properly – with solid foundations and with integrity – was to do it “from the inside-out”.

Our very simple premise was – and is – that if you get it right for your people, they will get it right for your customers and that will take care of the shareholders.

I was confident HomeServe had the time and financial strength to build a truly Customer-focused culture and a strong brand, and I knew, from experience, that the best way to achieve this was going to be through truly trusting and empowering the People of the company to get it right for Customers. The key, though, was finding the way to make real empowerment happen.

This is when we came up with the idea of Customer First where any of our People can take responsibility to do what they feel to be the right thing for a Customer. We meet at 8.30am every day to consider specific Customer matters. Since launch, we have helped over 2,000 Customers who weren’t actually covered for the work we did.

And while it is great that we have made a real difference for some very deserving Customers, the simple fact is that our People know they are trusted to assess the right outcomes. And it is exactly the same in the way we communicate within our business – trust is at the heart of this.

Under Martin’s leadership, our focus on honest, open and two-way communication has been intense and exciting. Everything from huge set-piece face to face events to broad adoption of social conversations has been in our plan. And our People know we want them to ask questions, to challenge, to make suggestions and to keep us on our journey.

At the heart of this is open communication approach feedback. It is absolutely true that feedback is a gift. If you encourage it from your Customers and your People, they will trust you more. If you use it to evolve what you do, you will be stronger. Glassdoor is at the heart of this for us – we actively encourage all our People to tell us what they think through Glassdoor and we use the reviews actively to guide our progress. And, we reap the benefits of this, read for yourself what our People say about us.

When it comes to communication, use all the channels available and create some new ones. Be brave and go external with internal stories let your People share what they are doing with their friends and families. Above all though, communicate with a point and a purpose and make your messages consistent; random is bad!

Has this approach worked? We like to think we are heading in the right direction. As well as the ratings our People give HomeServe on Glassdoor, they’ve also given our UK CEO Martin a personal 97% approval score, which put him in the top four of UK CEOs last year

Our own internal engagement survey has shown an increase in overall engagement to 81%, with the scores I quoted at the start of this piece changing to be 94% of People feeling that the senior management team take the time to understand their needs and challenges, and 96% feeling they can communicate openly to their senior leaders.

We also believe this approach, in the context of our 2020 strategy, is working with Customers. The Institute of Customer Service’s bi-annual report has just ranked HomeServe as highest in industry when it comes to helpfulness of staff over the phone, with an overall rating of 8.7 out of 10. Added to this, the Institute says we are the most improved company in the services industry – showing a remarkable increase of 16.2 points in satisfaction when compared to our scores 2009.

The bottom line is this: If you engage, empower and actively communicate with your People and allow them to reciprocate, they will bring your brand to life through their words and deeds. They are your brand.