Look Ahead: customers as "quality checkers"


Fourteen customers have been recruited to be quality checkers. They are all working towards a Customer Services Level 2 Certificate.



What is a quality checker?

The Quality Checkers carry out checks on our services as part of our quality management system.  They are looking at all aspects of the service, and particularly at the way the support is personalised.

We were planning a new quality management system in Spring 2013, and customers told us that they wanted to be part of it (it had been an agenda item at the Customer Services Committee), and they co-designed how this would happen.

There are three main ways the quality checkers work:

  • visit a service as part of a scheduled quality audit
  • unannounced visit to a service
  • mystery shop the service

A – Excellent.  I was really impressed with the staff member who led on this.  I am really pleased they value security into the building and didn’t allow me access.  I am also really pleased they took the time and effort to ensure that I was listened to and given what I needed.

In what way has it improved outcomes/the service?

Quality Checkers speak to local customers at services they visit, and this has led to a much better quality of feedback.  They are able to generate conversations rather than more formal interviews, which relaxes customers, and therefore we can better assess the service being received.

Several changes to services have been made as a direct response to suggestions from Quality Checkers, particularly to the physical environment which may not have been a priority of staff.  In particular reception areas have improved, ensuring they are more welcoming, and communal garden areas which had been neglected have been made more inviting.

Receiving positive feedback from a Quality Checker has really encouraged staff and increased morale, it is considered more meaningful than from another staff member.

What changes did you have to make?

Our Quality Manager and the Quality Checkers have worked together to ensure that the new quality management system combines customer and staff expertise, and that it checks the things which are important to customers.

For example, the Quality Checkers now specifically ask customers how many different support workers they have had during their time at Look Ahead, as they believe that too many changes can be detrimental to their experience of support.  Staff turnover is now a performance measurement rather than just a HR record.

Did you encounter any challenges/obstacles and how did you resolve them?

It has taken extra time to recruit, select, induct and train the Quality Checkers, but we know that this is time well spent to get a better outcome.

The Quality Checkers initially were making quick judgements on services comparing it to their own experiences, but we have spent time discussing the importance of understanding the dynamics and pressures on a service before coming to conclusions.

Top tips?

Ensure that it is approached jointly from the planning stage.  Customers are very clear about what is important to them and how it can be measured and checked.

Have a formal recruitment process for Quality Checkers, and put training in place. 

Want more info? Email Mike Bansback, Quality Manager on MikeBansback@lookahead.org.uk