Balance Learning rolls out online course at Mercian

Birmingham-based Mercian Housing Association is rolling out an online customer service course across the organisation after a pilot group of 50 staff achieved a knowledge improvement rate of 92%.

Called Preparing to be Outstanding, the online course – developed by interactive learning company Balance Learning – highlights the customer service role and the long-term value of excellent customer care.

50 staff from Mercian’s housing team were asked to take the online course to enhance their customer service skills, following a restructure, and to help assess which of them would be best suited to join a new customer service team, that was being established as a first point of contact for customer queries.

“Excellent customer care and satisfaction are at the heart of our services,” said Sharon Gilligan, Director of Housing and Community Services at Mercian. “We originally wanted to use the tests from the online course to help match people to posts in our new customer service team and identify individual and team strengths and weaknesses. But having seen an all-round improvement in customer service knowledge and awareness, we’re now looking to make greater use of this resource. We will use the results to further develop individual and team training & development needs over the next few months.”

With practical tips, video case studies and interactive quizzes, the online course shows how to satisfy customers by making a good impression, exploring each customer’s needs and ensuring those needs are met.

The pilot group began by assessing their existing knowledge of customer service, using the course’s integral pre-test. They then had four weeks to work through the online course, either at their desks or at home. On completion, they took an online post-test to benchmark their knowledge improvement. The average pre-test score was 39%; the average post-test score was 75%, an improvement rate of 92%.

Mercian used the post-test results to provide a basis for discussion when it was conducting internal interviews for its new customer service team. The scores for each section showed areas where the interviewer could probe further to establish the candidate’s competencies and experience.

Alison Culpan, Staff Development Officer at Mercian, said: “We looked at a number of e-learning courses but this was the most user-friendly. We wanted to use a new and innovative way of delivering learning that was not focussed on classroom-based training. This course allows employees to engage in learning at their convenience and to suit their work pattern. As well as being an effective training resource, it has proved to be a very helpful support tool for our internal interviews.”

Balance Learning administered and monitored the course through its learning management system. Called the Balance Portal, the system registered and invited the participants to take the course, tracked their learning and provided usage and progress reports.

“Being able to easily access and retrieve live data, showing who had been through the course and how they had scored, was invaluable,” said Alison Culpan.


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