Exceptional Customer Service – Lessons from Eurostar

July 25, 2017

We had a really fantastic Elite client meeting in London this June. There were so many excellent insights that we can’t possibly cover them all, but we’d like to share a few with everyone.

The morning session was a presentation by Sandrine Yvenou and Tamsin Crook from Eurostar (pictured above) about providing excellent customer service. In 2012, Eurostar lost its monopoly on running passenger services through the tunnel, triggering a drive by the company to to become ‘Europe’s most loved experience’. The Eurostar Academie was set up to promote this vision and provide necessary training to all Eurostar employees, with the aim of putting customer service at the heart of everything they do. They focused particularly on all the ‘touch points’ where the staff have an opportunity to make the customer experience a bit more special.

The organisation’s initial statement of its vision and values failed to resonate with the employees on the ground. They then involved the entire workforce in developing those values into ten customer service promises, each with five ‘standards’ that describe observable behaviours associated which each level of performance.

Linked to this, they have moved away from reliance on annual performance appraisals or reviews, and focus much more on immediate, regular feedback, and ‘management by wandering about’. Performance targets are tightly linked to customer satisfaction feedback, and the different sectors are extremely motivated to meet or exceed their targets. They have now come almost full circle, back to pared-down, simple statements of their vision of customer service, as core competencies are embedded throughout the organisation.

Employees are encouraged to use their personalities to engage with every customer, and increase the emotional bond they have with the Eurostar brand. There is much here that translates into the veterinary world, where trust and the emotional attachment to a practice are essential, so that the client wouldn’t even think about going elsewhere. Exceptional customer service doesn’t just happen by chance, it requires constant, ongoing effort.

We are delighted that the relationship between Eurostar and Eight Legal looks set to continue, and are hoping to have Sandrine and Yvette back to speak in September.

Mindsets and developing a learning culture: Workshop with Peter Whitehead of Matthew Syed Consulting

A fixed mindset is the belief that one has a defined set of talents and that that’s as good as you get. Individuals with a growth mindset recognise that true mastery requires effort and hard work, a willingness to fail and learn from mistakes. These people frequently rise to the top of their field, at which point many will describe them as ‘naturals’, not seeing the tremendous effort that went into the achievement.

If any of you are completely unfamiliar with the concept, there’s a TEDx talk by Carol Dweck – it’s focus is on children and education, but the basics are there in 10 minutes.

Praising someone for their intelligence, or talent, can induce a fixed mindset; praising for effort and perseverance, encouraging experimentation and risk-taking, even if it leads to failure, will encourage a growth mindset. People with growth mindsets are more resilient, because they don’t let setbacks undermine their self-belief. As a profession, we need to encourage risk taking, accepting and learning from failure as a consequence, otherwise our staff will stagnate and never reach their potential.

Peter outlined the ‘train’ model:

  • Train the brain – the brain can develop through ‘exercise’ just like a muscle
  • Reframe success – it requires effort and determination
  • Amend the message – how you give feedback is key – praise the effort
  • Instil resilience – be confident to fail and learn – if you never fail, you’re not trying hard enough!
  • No limits – current attainment doesn’t predict future potential
  • We then moved on to look at learning cultures:
  • Leadership – build a strong team, make it ‘safe to fail’, always strive for better
  • Empowering employees
  • Appraisal and feedback
  • Recruitment and reward – consider resilience when recruiting; don’t just focus rewards on hitting a target
  • No unjust blame – don’t leap to ‘who’s to blame’, investigate what happened, what can be learnt. This doesn’t mean not holding people accountable when necessary.

Looking at the example of a clinical error, we need to consider:

  • How do we get to know about them? Are people open? Would junior members of the team have a way to raise a concern about a more senior person?
  • Have a standard process to follow up an incident
  • Discuss openly eg at vet meetings, learn from them
  • Ensure the new insights are communicated around the practice
  • Beware of individuals who ‘shut down’ the conversation or debate

Further reading if you’re interested:

Carol Dweck ‘Mindset: How we can learn to fulfil our potential’
‘Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality and development’
Matthew Syed ‘Black box thinking’