series of conferences for frontline staff, the council is now planning
to incorporate drama into its management development.
customer service throughout the authority because people work in
different areas, in different circumstances,' said Sharon Wilkins,
manager of LB Lewisham's Front Line Academy, a virtual group
which runs change initiatives for front line staff. 'Residents,
however, see the council as one organisation, so it is important that
our service level is the same across all directorates.'
To provide guidance on what is expected of staff, 18
representatives from the Front Line Academy, in consultation with
colleagues, devised a set of corporate customer service standards
that could be adopted across the council and promoted to
customers as a 'promise' of good service, regardless of which
service they access or whether they make contact face-to-face or
via the telephone.
The standards include eight service principles relating to behaviour -
such as being respectful, courteous and sensitive to individual
needs - as well as three more traditional performance promises.
'We decided to launch these standards at a conference for our front
line staff,' said Ms Wilkins. 'We approached Steps Drama
because we wanted to bring alive the standards and get the
message across in a way that engaged staff. Steps Drama
understand learning and development and they've got a lot of
experience of working with local authorities.'
The one-day conference was held at the borough council's civic
suite. Around 130 front line staff attended, filling the capacity of the
The Steps Drama session ran for an hour and three quarters.
Three actor-facilitators role played a range of customer service
scenarios, highlighting difficult customer service interactions and the
rationale for introducing a set of standards that apply to everyone.
'With Steps Drama, the interactive nature of their work is very
entertaining and the quality of their delivery is always excellent,' said
Ms Wilkins. 'Feedback showed that the conference was a
great success. If we'd just sent out leaflets saying these are the
customer service standards you have to live by, people would've
been less inclined to take the messages on board. Because staff
had an opportunity to contribute and discuss the points raised in the
Steps Drama scenarios, they bought into the reasons why the
customer service standards were needed.'
The conference proved so successful that the managers of
Lewisham's Call Point (corporate call centre) and Access Point
(one-stop shop for customers) asked Steps Drama to run a similar
session for all of their staff at their annual departmental conference.
Steps Drama ran two one-hour slots at the event and nearly 200
While Steps Drama were preparing the workshop for the Front Line
Academy conference, the council asked them to help with a
A new-style assessment day had been arranged, as part of the
process of recruiting customer-facing staff in the Call Point and
Access Point services. The idea was to filter down 200 applicants
using communications exercises, an observation exercise and a
written skills test.
Steps Drama worked with the council and two actors delivered a
range of scenarios, making deliberate customer service mistakes, in
a face-to-face environment. These scenarios were filmed by the
council's in-house communications unit, who then produced a
The council took over a theatre in Lewisham for two days, for the
assessments. The video was screened to 100 applicants per day
and each had to write down the points of poor service they noticed.
'Some of the deliberate mistakes made were very funny and others
were very subtle,' said Ms Wilkins. 'The assessment process
helped to weed out unsuitable candidates and those who were
successful went through to the interview stage.'
Lewisham LBC is currently in discussion with
Steps Drama about two additional customer service events for its
Social Care & Health and Education & Culture directorates. It is
also considering including drama-based learning in the customer
focus module of its management development programme.
Abi George, Lewisham's head of service development, said:
'The customer service initiatives have already helped us to become
more effective and more focussed. Publishing our standards has
raised the public's expectations about our service. The challenge
now is to ensure we deliver a high level of satisfaction.'