How did Central Bedfordshire Council – Planning Use The CSE Standard for service delivery improvement?

Why did you wish to continue with the Customer Service Excellence Standard?

The Planning Delivery team’s vision is to provide an efficient and customer focused planning service that works collaboratively to deliver sustainable growth. 

We wanted to know how to build on the service we were already providing to ensure our service users and staff alike, had a service to be proud of, which is much aligned to Central Bedfordshire Council’s corporate vision that it will continue to be a great place to live and work. 

However, we were not looking just for an award, but for something that would recognise our good practices, while helping us to develop further and deliver even better performance and service delivery outcomes for all. 

After carrying out in and out of sector research, we were agreed that the Customer Service Excellence Standards would provide help us to consistently embed a customer focussed culture and increase performance alongside other benefits

What was your approach to assessment?

Prior to settling on Assessment Services, I did carry out research and interviews of other CSE providers as part of our approach to engaging external organisations. The information on from Assessment Services, stood out amongst the competitors and the Network & Chat and the Self-Assessment tool was very appealing. All of this together, supported my proposal to colleagues internally and helped allay any resistance to utilising the standards in a service that was not as used to change or different practices as others. 

The Network and Chat gave me an opportunity to not only see how others found the Assessment experience, but also allowed me to put forward any thoughts, ideas of how we would apply ourselves to this process.

What have you experienced as the impact/benefit of the CSE Standard?

The Network & Chat partnered with access to the self-assessment tool, gave me the opportunity to not only carry out a self-assessment internally with the team, but to use it to come up with joint ideas that could help us deliver, what success would look like for our service and users and to test or embed some of these approaches before the actual assessment took place, which helped to put a lot more staff at ease. It also helped the team to understand that the journey was about continuous improvement and therefore, it was good to change and adapt as and when necessary, to keep practices current and relevant.

How did the assessment feedback support you in your continuous improvement?

We have been using the criteria within the Assessment tool as a continuous improvement tool, with less focus on achieving a tick box and more about achieving real improvements, for and with our customers and staff, that can also be measured.

This approach has been continued with the feedback within the assessment report as we have greatly valued the external validation of our areas of strength, but also focussed in on where further improvements can be made and where we can utilise any of the points raised to challenge other internally connected services in order to influence positive change across the Council as a whole.

Additionally, the learning from both staff surveys has been reflected back to the teams through team meetings and one-to-ones and has had a galvanising effect on staff who have seen the benefits of introducing new tools, such as the Planning Delivery team Charter and the Customer Panel as a direct result of the work towards the CSE Standard.

How do Assessment Services Ltd compare to other assessment bodies?

As well as what I mentioned previously about the Network & Chat and the Assessment toolkit, we were also impressed by the information available on the website and samples provided via email as well as the knowledge and support of the Assessment services team, particularly Lorna Bainbridge and Richard Adkins, the speed and efficiency in response to any queries raised. The quotes were clear and competitive, and the Benefits outlined struck the right tone of growing success through Assessment, rather than just a one off exercise to achieve recognition.

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