Forget Bob – if you want to fix it, you need a Joann

You won’t be with Lanes Group plc’s new customer service manager for long before you hear the ‘F’ word.

“We had a bit of a challenge with this service. It wasn’t doing quite what the customer needed. We saw there was a solution, so I’d say, let’s fix it!”

Joann has been applying this enthusiasm to fix things, and a lot more besides, for Lanes customers since February 2019, and she’s loving her new role.

To mark International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing the work of women who work at Lanes, the UK’s largest independent drainage specialist.

Joann is working with colleagues across the business to put in place systems and procedures that will have long-term benefits for customers.

She also loves problem solving. Put simply, her mantra us: if something isn’t right, change it now. If a customer gets better service as a result, it’s worth doing.

Before joining Lanes, Joann worked for 22 years in the regulated water utilities industry.

She started as a call centre customer advisor, was a team leader, complaints manager, customer strategic manager, and finally a change manager for a major business implementation programme.

Joann is now applying that broad and deep experience as a member of the senior team at Lanes, with day-to-day responsibility for the key accounts team.

Its members support the many customers who have contracts with Lanes to deliver planned and reactive drainage services, mostly regionally or nationally.

Joann also manages the out-of-hours team, who operate Monday to Friday, 4pm to midnight plus Saturdays and Sundays and all bank holidays. Its members play a critical role, says Joann, in delivering Lanes’ 24/7 service, supporting customers and working with on-call managers and drainage engineers.

Key accounts is a highly complex working environment. Success depends on processing enquiries using different procedures and technologies and then delivering services to a variety of key performance indicators.

Joann’s remit also stretches beyond the key account hub in Eccles, Greater Manchester.

“I’m interested in service delivery as an end-to-end process, from the moment the service call comes in, to how we interact within the business

to process the request to how the service is delivered out in the field,” she says.

“At every point on that journey we want to exceed customer expectations. To do that, we need to work smartly as one team.”

When she joined Lanes, she started from the ground up – striving to understand how and why things were done. That involved crunching data. Enquiry volumes by type and time, along with how they were managed, were examined in detail.

That led to some of Joann’s first changes – her fixes. The data analysis has underpinned a restructuring of the key accounts department, to create a front-office team, which takes calls, and a back-office team that processes other enquiries, such as emails.

A new scheduling system has been introduced to ensure reactive calls that come in out of normal office hours, are processed more effectively for customers and operational teams alike.

She is supported by two supervisors – Nicki Caven, who has worked in the key accounts department for 22 years and Karen Kemp, who has worked for Lanes for six years and has moved across from the operational team.

They are playing a key role in implementing new ways of working and supporting staff throughout the change process. A key initiative for the next 12 months will be a comprehensive training programme.

Joann says: “We want our teams to be multi-skilled so we can flex our response to whatever our customers need and expect of us. We’re carrying out structured customer service trained, working to a skills matrix, to achieve this.

“The aim is to make our teams more capable and confident in their work. Knowing how to deliver customer excellence can be very empowering. We want our people to enjoy their work because that enthusiasm will be communicated to customers.”

Joann’s experience as a transformation programme manager has made her a champion of other sales and operational initiatives that are improving Lanes service, including the introduction of digital systems.

These include a new works scheduling system called Team Leaf. Joann is also looking to support her key accounts service with digital technology, including automation of enquiry logging.

However, Joann says building strong relationships is also vital and she is busy meeting clients to get a greater understanding of how Lanes can best support them.

“We to take ownership for our clients’ problems,” says Joann. “They need to trust us to get things done. That involves being transparent about how we deliver service, what we can do and, in a small number of cases, what we can’t.

“When clients have more work, we can do we want to demonstrate we have the capacity and capability to do it. We don’t want any doubt in their minds, that we’ll take responsibility and get the job done.”

Changes are certainly positive. There has been big reduction in repeat calls, indicating that customers are increasingly confident that Lanes teams are on the case and will sort their problems.

Key customers are increasing the amount of work they give to Lanes – one major customer by 25% in the last four months – and new accounts are being won with increasing frequency.

Joann says she’s in for the long journey. Improvement is a continuous process, especially when Lanes must respond to the changing needs of customers.

She says: “People give business to other people. We need to take pride in what we do, and that will shine out to our customers. I want us all to succeed as a team.” A team of highly skilled and dedicated fixers.

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