Best practice: Staff/customer relations

Personnel Today’s
monthly series reveals how managers tackle business problems and enhance
performance. In this issue, Liz Kentish, continuous improvement manager at
Reliance Security Services, explains how its ‘Red Book’ scheme has boosted
morale, increased pride in performance and improved customer retention

Security Services is an established market leader in the provision of contract
security and electronic surveillance.

Employing more than
9,500 people in the UK, the company continues to expand rapidly, with a network
of over 30 centres nationwide.

Regular two-way
communication with all employees is vitally important to the delivery of the
company’s customer service strategy and through the use of the "Red
Book" scheme, new ideas, suggestions for customer service improvements and
better ways of working are encouraged.

Reliance is a national
company offering a personal service and strong local management through its
centre structure.

This local service
focus is central to the company’s business philosophy, along with the
requirement to provide consistency – wherever a customer is located, the same
practices and standards of service will apply.

Implementing the scheme

To ensure that all
ideas from all members of each customer’s security team were captured, one
Reliance security manager suggested putting a notebook on site, allowing the
security teams to raise issues that affected them, or suggestions for
improvement. The ideas recorded would be immediately addressed by managers during
regular visits to the site.

This Red Book scheme
was such a success that it was implemented across the UK in all Reliance
centres, allowing employees to voice their opinions and have an input into the
way the company was run.

All issues entered
into the book are responded to and discussed.

As a company, Reliance
had always had an open culture of two-way communication. The book was received
as an extension of this and there was no difficulty convincing people to use it
to record their ideas.

In the 10 years since
that initial implementation, the book has evolved and become a dedicated
channel for improvement suggestions.

The Red Book does not,
however, replace personal contact – if an employee has a problem or operational
issue that would be more easily solved by discussion with a manager, this
channel remains open to them.

The Red Book has now
been extended to Reliance’s customers. Managers responsible for security teams
hold monthly meetings with each customer to discuss the suggestions raised.

Each idea is
considered thoroughly, giving the customer the opportunity to implement new
ideas as they are offered.

As a result, the
two-way communication has developed into a triangular form, with Reliance
management, employees and the customer each giving feedback and reactions to
any recommendations.

Positive outcomes

This triangle
structure has been beneficial to all concerned. Security teams working for
Reliance participate fully in the improvement of their customer’s security
service and their own working environment.

Regular surveys have
confirmed the success of this development and the highlight has been that
people feel more involved in the business and therefore more valued and able to
contribute to the running of the business.

The Red Book scheme is
a very effective method of encouraging pride in the company, leading to a
significant morale boost for all employees because they know that their opinion
is important and effective.

Red Book suggestions
are regularly implemented by customers and there have been many examples of
financial savings made as a result of these ideas. For example, one client was
regularly losing a number of laptops to theft, but couldn’t understand how they
were being taken. A Reliance employee noticed that rubbish bags were being
stored in an unusual place and being picked up later in the day. His suggestion
that traditional black rubbish sacks be replaced with transparent bags stopped
the thefts immediately.

Employees working
within a situation are often closer to a problem and much more likely to
suggest a simple but highly effective, low-cost idea that can solve it.

The Red Book has
produced many benefits for employees and customers alike and companies are very
receptive to the scheme.

Reliance is now
expanding the system with the aim of sharing ideas between sites.

The objective for the
future is to continue this communication, company- and customer-wide.

Improvements in
service and employee satisfaction have also led to increased levels of customer

The Red Book provides
physical evidence of the company’s value and can be used as a tangible
illustration, not only of the numerous ways in which security improvements have
been made, but also the company’s ability to add value to the service offered.

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Top tips for continuous improvement

Regular two-way communication with employees and customers

– Encouragement of new
ideas, free thinking and suggestions for service improvement

– Awareness of the
need to feedback – response to and discussion of all suggestions

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