Coaching takes to the road

Avery explains how Unipart tackled the challenge of delivering a customer care
training programme across 300 branches, to 3,500 staff, in just eight weeks

Delivering Customer Service Excellence

Designed by: Waterman’s Training, The Abbey Brewery, Market Cross,
Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 9AS
Phone: 01666 825123
Fax: 01666 825233

When the Unipart Group of Companies decided on a programme to improve levels
of customer service in the Autoparts and Brown Brothers branches, our senior
management realised we were facing a substantial training and logistical
challenge. The objective was to train all branch members from drivers to
counter staff, not just managers and sales staff.

However, with 3,500 staff based at in more than 300 branches, the demands of
keeping each branch functioning through the training timeframe of only eight
weeks, required a creative approach. While Unipart has significant training
resources within the group, we recognised that to meet this challenge we were
going to need some external support.

We selected Waterman’s Training to design and manage the programme, as the
consultancy listened to our particular needs and designed a schedule to meet
our requirements, to suit our organisation and our staff. We appreciated the
fact that it did not attempt to thrust a pre-packaged solution on us – the
programme developed for us was branded the Customer Delight Roadshow.

Instant delivery

A typical Unipart customer can be anything from a garage, an individual
mechanic running his own business up to a large corporate account such as ATS,
Kwik-Fit, Sainsbury’s Homebase, Asda, or other retail outlet. Our customers
expect instant service and delivery. If they do not get it they will, quite
rightly, go elsewhere. We know that we need to ‘delight’ our customers in order
to continue to succeed as a business.

The objectives of the roadshow were to enable staff to identify those
customer service behaviours that would give their customers most advantage, to
resolve problems on behalf of their customers and to be more proactive in
delighting customers. The challenges we faced were the sheer volume of staff to
be trained and the geographical spread of those staff.


The solution Waterman’s proposed, and delivered, was designed with all these
issues in mind. To bring this number of people together for one or two days was
neither practical nor cost-effective, so the event was designed to be an
extremely high-impact training course, with a memorable and engaging fishing
theme, which could be delivered in half a day. In total the roadshow was rolled
out to 3,500 staff at 20 venues across the country.

Waterman’s undertook to manage the logistical side of the project. It
suggested suitable geographical locations so that branch members would be
within a 90-minute drive of the venue, sent out invitations to branch managers
in different regions, co-ordinated the 3,500 nominations received from the
managers and then booked 30 people at a time onto each half-day roadshow,
sourced venues, liaised with conference organisers at each venue – to arrange
the resources required, room layout and refreshment arrangements – sent out
maps and joining instructions to branches and, importantly, tracked and kept
Unipart informed of budgetary spend. For an event of this scale, it was key to
the project that our training partner could undertake this integral element of
the programme organisation.At each venue we ran two sessions a day for two or
three days. Each session had 30 participants at café-style tables of five,
designed to encourage participation, teamwork and communication. We wanted to
impart something of genuine value that the attendees could implement back at
the workplace, leading to a more involved role in customer care.

Practical outcomes

The practical changes we wanted to see in our branches after the roadshow

– Physical changes in customer feedback

– Branch managers wanting more training for their teams

– Sales increasing/repeat business

– Reduced staff turnover

– Change in attitude to a more positive outlook

– Less absenteeism

The brief we gave to Waterman’s for the roadshows was that they should have
lots of pizzazz, fun, colour, music and get over the key learning points in an easy-to-understand

The events began with each group stating two things it hoped to get out of
the session and two things it didn’t want the session to involve. Park sheets
were introduced and their role as an unattributed hotline to management was explained.
We found these sheets generated several easy ways to implement ideas which
provided quick ‘wins’ after the events.

Best practices

Each group came up with the best examples of customer service it had
achieved, witnessed or heard about. Effective organisations share best practice
and so the groups visited each other to share and discuss their chosen example,
and how it might be implemented.

Exercises were undertaken to make staff see things from the customer’s
perspective, to look at their branches as a customer would see them and to
discuss what changes would give Unipart’s customers the biggest advantages. For
each of these ideas the trainers helped the groups to come up with a list of
‘what’ and ‘how’ actions, so that the practicalities of implementing new ideas
could be understood. Two group members stayed at the flipchart with the ideas,
while the others travelled the room discussing the ideas of each of the other
groups. Common themes and areas of consensus soon became apparent and these were
summarised by the trainers.

The well-known US video Fish!, distributed in the UK by Video Arts, became
the theme of the events. It looks at customer service in a completely different
environment – a Seattle fishmarket. Reviewing the video and its examples of
customer service, good and bad, gave our staff the opportunity to consider
their ideas in the context of these examples.


Problem-solving techniques were next on the agenda. Brainstorming, Fishbone
Analysis and the Five Why’s were explained and their suitability to different
situations were discussed, as was the importance of writing everything down and
leaving ideas to incubate. The groups even found time to run through a complex
issue using the Five Why’s to get to the real problem. Each Roadshow was
concluded with the group selecting three customer service behaviours (CSBs),
with their associated ‘what’ and ‘how’, to take back to their branches for
implementation or further work.

The outcome of just half a day’s training was that staff went back to their
branches with concrete ideas about practical changes they could make to improve
the customer service they delivered. They also left equipped with
problem-solving techniques to enable them to deal with issues more effectively
in their branches.


Many of our people, such as drivers and counter staff, were very pleased to
be involved. The role of these people is vital to delivering customer service,
and it is difficult to bring them together for training purposes – so often their
managers become involved in the training and are then expected to pass on
guidelines and messages. However, this method tends to overlook the effect of
being personally involved in the wider training process. As their presence was
actively sought, our attendees saw that they really matter to Unipart and their
opinions are valid and clearly regarded as important to the company.

Developer’s view

We believe that any training programme delivered on a substantial scale
should be tailor-made to suit the specific needs, culture and practical
requirements of an organisation. This is where the success of a programme such
as the Customer Delight Roadshow is determined. Trying to shoehorn a set of
complex needs and circumstances into an off-the-peg solution will not deliver
the return on investment clients require.

Taking 3,500 staff out of the day-to-day running of a business was a huge
commitment to improving customer service at Unipart.

Our response was to condense a substantial learning experience, and the preparation
of an individual action plan, into just a few hours, while still delivering as
substantial a benefit to Unipart as possible.

Have you tried & tested a brilliant course

If so, let us know. Contact Stephanie Sparrow at  or by fax on 020-8652 8805

American video Fish! is one of a
series distributed in the UK by Video Arts. It can be ordered direct from the
company for  £445, including a guide and
playbook. Telephone  0207 637 7288 extn

Breaking down barriers with inspiration

This was inspirational training delivered by training professionals and we
believe the effects are substantial and will have long-term impact.

Staff self-esteem and confidence were improved and the courses
immediately had the effect of empowering people to get totally involved in
putting things right. The process broke down barriers across departments and
improved interdepartmental communications hugely.

The programme was designed to meet our specific needs and
requirements. It suited our organisation and our staff and it successful
tackled the practical issues of geographical spread and limited staff

Overall rating    * * * * *

Value for money * * * *

Organisation * * * * *

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Effectiveness of meeting * * * * *

Business needs fun * * * *

(key    *  = Disappointing   * * * * *  = excellent)

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