Customer Culture Header
Left Header Right

There is just one big disadvantage about working in a headquarters department at the British Council in the UK. It is not the rain or the lack of anything resembling a meaningful summer. The one thing that I miss above everything else is not being at the 'coal-face'
of customer service and dealing directly with customers. However, all of that is about to change for the six of us working in the Customer Management Team.

As an outcome of a British Council UK major restructuring programme, the Customer Management team is re-inventing itself. Change can be pretty scary, but we are all very, very excited about this development and the new internal consultancy service we are about to launch.

I leave it to Eva Choong, Director Customer Management to tell you about the new service we will be offering and what benefits are in it for you – At your service

Transforming ourselves from a mainly corporate function into a customer-orientated service has been fun and motivating. And one of the things the six of us are committed to, is to offer you a service which:

you can Trust
you are Inspired by
makes it Easy for you

Rachel Roberts – Editor
1. News
2. At your service
3. The British Council created opportunities for me
4. Pass the broken watches, going round the elephants in the room,
straight into Customer Service Excellence!

5. Customer Experience Management Online Learning Course
6. This month I have been inspired by…


Read this section for the latest information from Customer Management, including a new Contact Centre webinar series from Customer Contact Council, and a Mystery Shopping call to action!



11 April 2012, 1900 BST

A new Contact Centre series from Customer Contact Council.

This new series, "Contact Centre 101," specifically designed to (re)introduce foundational contact centre concepts to contact centre professionals.

In the first webinar of this series, CCC will address issue resolution, the shortcomings of the first contact resolution (FCR) metric, and the concept of next issue avoidance.

All CCC webinars are available as recordings after the event.

8 May 2012, 0900 and 1600 BST

CCC Coaching Resources

Customer Contact Council is hosting a webinar for us to help us build coaching capability within our Customer Service teams. The webinar will showcase a summary of CCC's coaching best practices and resources, and anyone who would like to coach their teams more effectively will benefit greatly from attending.

There will be two webinars scheduled (the second will be a repeat of the first) to allow colleagues across the network to join at a convenient time (09:00 and 16:00 BST).

We will be sending out details of how to join shortly.

Mystery Shopping 2012-13 – your chance to shape the survey!

Most regions will by now have received their Mystery Shopping reports for 2011-12. We will issue a global consolidated report when we receive it from the research agency in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we are already working on the design of the next round of Mystery Shopping and want to invite your input at this early stage.

What we are particularly interested in this year are your own representative questions and answers. We want to ensure that the survey is as accurate a representation as possible of the type of enquiries that you receive in your offices and to identify the best possible answers to those questions.

Please send us your top 3 questions from English and Exams, Education, Science, Society, Arts, general, together with your best answers for those questions. We have created a space on the Customer Management Sharepoint site here for the 2012 Mystery Shopping Question Bank Update.

We would really value your time in this exercise because without it we cannot be sure that the survey is meaningful to you.

CMF Self Assessments

This is a reminder that offices should be completing their CMF self-assessments. We have extended the deadline to Thursday 26 April. If you have not received your login details, please contact your Regional CM Lead.

ICS Success

We are delighted to announce that Nayantara Shroff from BC Kolkata, and Patricia Reyes from BC Caracas have both been successful in achieving their ICS Communications Awards, and Jennie Gant from BC Segovia has achieved a Solutions Award. Congratulations to all three! We look forward to celebrating further achievements this month!

Further information from Harriet Leech – Customer Management Assistant

back to top


Article 2

Like Rachel, I miss the direct contact I used to have with customers and service teams when working in Singapore. Life can feel 'one step removed' at times here at Spring Gardens with little opportunity to work at 'local' level. Now that is all about to change as we have redesigned the way we work so that we can work with you on your agendas whilst at the same time driving forward the corporate customer strategy.

So, what's changed?

You can now engage the Customer Management team to deliver a range of training programmes, conduct customer experience assessment and redesign, advise on your service operation, help with recruitment and induction, help you to implement change faster and more successfully, provide customer insight and quality monitoring and evaluation, reshape your customer contact management, or indeed any other customer priorities you may have.

Why work with us?

  • Practical: Our solutions are brimming with useful tools, tips and techniques that you can use immediately.

  • Easy: Just call us and tell us what you're trying to achieve and we can direct you to a wealth of resources and suggest products or services which will match your needs. No need to tender or create a new vendor – just call or email us.

  • Cost effective: We can provide consultancy and training at a fraction of the cost you would expect from external agencies.

  • Flexible: Our solutions can be tailored to your specific needs and requirements.

To get a better idea of what we have to offer have a look at our product guide and remember we're just a call or email away.

We look forward to seeing much more of you this year.

Eva Choong – Director Customer Management back to top
Article 3

How many times have you been told to think about your customers, to put yourself in their shoes? More times that you can remember? Yes, I thought so. Well then, let us make this easy for you and introduce you to Laura, one of our customers from Spain. Austerity in Europe has forced her, like it has for many others, to make life-changing choices.


The work you do in supporting customers in these difficult times continues to create amazing opportunities and transform lives.

This is Laura's story…

I felt distrust, happiness and fear all at the same time when I first read that short email. 'I am going to London' I thought, 'I am really going!' It happened last year, during one of those summer afternoons in a seedy hotel I used to work in. I combined that job with my doctoral research for two years with little options of promotion in both of them. As many young professionals of my generation, I was living a deep professional crisis that did not allow me to prosper and become one of those researchers with a position, a reputation and financial resources. Young people like me were about to start out when the door was slammed shut and our possibilities reduced to the minimum, and not even reporting the situation can overcome the frustration we feel and the new, confusing and stressful present we live in. Furthermore, science projects in Spain have moved way down the priority list, so there is brain drain with million Euro projects gathering dust. However, I received that email and the sun came out in Madrid. They believed in me and the British Council opened a door for me that I have no interest whatsoever in closing.

January 15 finally arrived and I took an early flight to make sure I would arrive to London still with sunlight and with enough time to find my new place as quickly as possible. The great King's Cross station struck me as a superb sight and the smell of curry, ginger and spices completed the welcome. I spent my first month living with some friends in Camden Town who kindly took me in. Straight away, I focused all my attention on market research to find my own place to live (not very expensive, not too small, not too far from the university, etc). During my search I came across maniacs, vegetarian extremists, rogue tenants, 'bedmates' and screens included in rent. I finally found an attic with all I needed so I got to sign my contract almost a month after my arrival. I guess that London rewarded my persistence. Felipe Fernández-Armesto is our British Council contact in London. Neither my partner nor I imagined such an excellent treatment as the one we have received from him. The history seminars I attend are the backbone of my work here and are fascinating discussions among experts from which to draw all the conclusions that our English level allows us to. A privilege that has put all attendees on the same level, whether they come from New York, Delhi or Albacete.

Unfortunately my stay could not last forever and squeezing the most out the first chance I had, I asked to extend it to three months. Notre Dame University and the London University library in Malet Street are unique places where you can take the inspiration and the many resources available to all students. Also, the British Library and many other libraries and centres welcomed hungry students with their open classrooms and all their resources ready to use. For these and many other reasons, Bloomsbury stands out as a charming neighborhood full of grace. It may be because in its streets are housed businesses that feed the hopes of a young researcher like me. Or maybe because Dickens' words and Woolf echo through the night. Or perhaps because all of us find it easier to exploit the most hidden part of ourselves when we cross the border and take out the stigmas that drag us to some other hotel lobby...

Moreover, London is the elastic city seen from the plane, a Victorian holiday settlement challenging trade rules and the logic of the European crisis. Active works in the street, hairdressers open on a Sunday, and a total ignorance of our infamous siesta. They have lunch while they walk here and they have dinner early. London keeps the tall buildings for its City and offers a welcome to the newcomer within reach of the three or four floors, being less aggressive than their prices. Life flows into it at odd hours, with a weather that makes fun of the forecast and feeds the conversation. London is that city that everyone has to visit, and I hope that the second part of my stay will provide material and inspiration to write many more articles like this.

Laura with Llanos Gómez – Communications Manager,
British Council Spain
back to top
Article 4

My friend Laura Calin, ICS Coordinator at the British Council Bucharest office was the first to experience the Managing Service Excellence course early last year.

She came back from Turkey with a twinkle in her eyes. "Was it Istanbul or was it the course?" we asked. "Both", she replied with a huge contagious smile on her face.

Left to right: Diana Berlinschi,
Consuela Popescu and Laura Calin

I knew Laura was enthusiastic about anything to do with Customer Services. But that smile made me want to give it a try myself.

When the opportunity to do MSE in Madrid I have to admit, that at the same time I was also rather sceptical (unlike Diana Berlinschi, our TC Customer Services Manager, who felt this was the perfect course for her). With such long experience in the British Council I felt like saying "Customer Services? What can be new to me?"

The very first day proved me wrong. I knew this was different. This is when Customer Service Excellence became personal. I saw a customer in everybody, even my colleagues, my friends, my husband! By the end of the course I was so enthusiastic I felt like saying "This is it! I'm going to change everything! On Monday, first thing in the morning. It's going to be smooth, straight, easy-peasy!"

It wasn't. Working in Exams is no easy job. You need to find your way through tight deadlines, strict board regulations, annoying financial rules and procedures and all seemed to me, more than ever so customer unfriendly.

Lucky me, I wasn't alone. Our first meeting was led by Jonathan Gayther, our inspiring Director English Language Services, who brought the 3 of us (Diana, Laura and myself) together. We realised we were at the beginning of something big and it was then when a draft action plan was set up. Little by little, through regular meetings we became a closer team. Not as I expected, we faced all sorts of difficulties from the classic lack of time to do what we had promised ourselves to not knowing for certain whether this would be better done alone or part of a team. Looking back now I see the difference: apart, we had been talking about "my" customers, "my" procedures, "my" issues, but now we are referring "our" customers, "our" ways with dealing with a's a big change for the better!

Gradually, what seemed difficult to draw at the beginning now was being shaped. We started to see the customer experience from the same perspective rather than limiting it to different departments. All three of us were now in the same spot: in our customer's shoes.

The action plan became clearer and smarter. We started by mapping the TC customer journey. Diana's and Laura's teams dedicated a day to working through and redesigning the pre and post registration procedures. We met again. Something needed to be done about queuing. We replanned registration periods for TC students and exams, doing our best to avoid overlapping. With an already proven ticket-based queuing management system in place at front of house, it proved to work perfectly. The final touch was a new plasma TV which Diana proudly installed in the waiting area. Our visitors are now informed and updated about BC events or advertised registration periods, while waiting in the reception area.

We didn't stop there though; we evaluated online Exams customer journeys and used this valuable feedback to redesign the new Exams webpage. The Cambridge exams calendar grew from a limited number of sessions (our candidates only had a choice of 50 a year) in 2011 to offering candidates any session they wish from a list of 150 a year in 2012.

We're getting better at cross-selling, as a result we set an open YLE exam session at the end of March, and we ended up with an unexpected doubling of our candidature compared to last year with increasing numbers of TC YL students and this in turn led to our opening a follow-up session in June.

It all makes sense when, instead of designing your own products and procedures "inside out" and try to adjust them for the market, you rather designed them "outside in": you make sure you know what your customer needs, feels, smells, sees, wants, expects from you first. It's not always easy. Along the way, we stumbled against broken watches and big elephants that we refused to see in the very office we sit and walls we cannot break, but we know we'll always find a way around them. Having the customer at the heart of planning is the straight answer to our questions about our future.

Consuela Popescu – Cambridge Exams Centre Manager,
British Council Romania
back to top
Article 5

We have developed an online learning course for colleagues in the British Council who are involved in developing, delivering and managing products and services for our customers.

That's just about every one of us in the global network!

This carefully focused modular programme will be customised around your role so that it relates to your area of work and responsibility. The core themes, however, are the same for everyone: how do we ensure that our customers receive a British Council Customer Experience that they can Trust, which Inspires them to buy our products and services or engage with our projects, and that we make it Easy for them to do business with us?

These are the key attributes of the corporate Customer Experience which we have been driving towards for some time now and many of you have already put initiatives in place to make this a reality in your offices. However, we know that a truly consistent Customer Experience requires everyone to be clear about the direction, the standards, the processes and the overall values that we want to employ in all our dealings with customers (both internal and external.) This means that a whole organisation approach – from the Boardroom to the Postroom – is needed if we are to create customer advocates for the British Council. And it is advocacy that will ultimately enable us to achieve our ambitious goals across the organisation.

This new opportunity to learn more about Customer Experience, what it means for successful external organisations and within the British Council, plus what you can do in your role to contribute to that goal, is now available through the Customer Management team. You can simply sign up and get on with it. We expect it would take between 2-6 hours to complete the course. There's no charge but we do recommend that you discuss the course with your line manager first so that you not only agree the necessary time to work through the modules but also that you begin an important conversation about what changes you hope to implement as a result of your learning. This is a very practical programme and we would hope that you will be inspired to re-visit your customer journeys, processes and the soft-skills of you and your colleagues from a fresh perspective.

All colleagues who complete the course will receive a Certificate in Customer Experience Management from the Customer Management team. Additionally, the course is linked to other programmes which we offer: Developing Service Excellence and Managing Service Excellence. The Customer Experience course is the required pre-course assignment for these 'live' programmes.

The British Council Customer Experience Management online learning course will launch in May 2012. I would be very pleased to talk to any of you about the course either before you begin working through it or at any stage in your studies. Do let us know what you think of this new opportunity when the course is launched in a few weeks time. I hope you enjoy it!

Susan Burnett – Customer Experience Manager back to top

If you would like to be inspired by those whose actions and insights shape the future, then have a look at this month’s five must-read articles.

Two of the listed articles are from the Customer Contact Council (CCC) site. You need to be registered with them to access the amazing wealth of their resources. To do so, please follow the simple instructions here.

  1. Drive growth by challenging your customers
    How does your organisation continue to drive business when customers aren't necessarily buying more and are absolutely unwilling to pay more? You may be surprised to discover that customer relationships don't provide the most direct and reliable path to growth. Instead, the best companies align the entire organisation (not just Sales & Marketing) to challenge and teach – not just sell.
  2. How to learn about customers like Steve Jobs did
    When internal business partners fail to consider the customer first, the impact to the experience can be disastrous. Learn what Steve Jobs did to keep a pulse on Apple customers and how you can convince your business partners to do so, too.
  3. To offer great customer service dare to be bad
    Many thanks to Dan Walsh for bringing this excellent article to my attention. Dan describes the author Frances Frei as "probably one of the best academics on customer service in the world".
  4. The value in wowing your customers
    Another gem discovered by Dan Walsh. This article is published in the Harvard Business Review.
  5. Social media tells me what my customers' think – why should I ask them for feedback?
    2011 was littered with examples of businesses making decisions based on the outrage or pleading of people expressing their views on social media sites like Twitter. Given it is now hard to glance at a computer screen without finding out exactly what the world thinks of your brand, product or customer service, what's the point of a customer feedback programme in 2012?

List compiled by Rachel Roberts –
Editor and Customer Service Improvement Manager
back to top

Contact us

If you have news you would like to share or want to have a picture of your office view featured in future
issues, please contact Rachel Roberts.

Subscribe Unsubscribe

We are registered in England as a charity. Our Privacy and Copyright statements.


We invite all the colleagues across the network to raise their questions / discussions on these topics
on the Customer Management discussion board where everyone can benefit and contribute to it.