Challenge: To develop a more customer focused culture with a housing association and to create a new set of customer service principles.

The organisation wanted a cultural shift within the organisation. They wanted to develop a customer focused culture so that great customer service was embedded into everyday practice not an activity that people, or a single department, made an effort to do.

Our Approach

We took an ‘inside out’ approach, looking at customer service from an internal perspective and creating principles that applied to both internal and external customers. Staff agreed there should be no distinction between how they treated each other and how they treated tenants- there was no difference.

There was no road map for this work. Theories of cultural change were considered but in the end we created our own way that worked for the organisation.

Our methodology included facilitating sessions with staff across the organisation, we consulted with tenants and the board, we created videos to raise customer service issues that needed to be addressed, we celebrated what was working well and we had open conversations about the things that we wanted to change.

We also used Disney’s customer journey mapping tool to understand processes from a customer perspective and made improvements during the engagement process. In addition both staff and management teams visualised the future- what does ‘customer culture’ look like?

The result – a Customer Culture principles framework written by staff that now forms the competency framework within the performance management system.

To embed the principles further staff created images, paintings, illustrating the key themes: equality, respect, commitment, understanding, positivity, empowerment, and gratitude.  These now hang on the walls in the offices and are in a pocket-size handy reminder which all staff and partners have been given.



They now have a staff champions group who meet monthly to take forward the customer culture agenda so that the principles become a reality in each part of the organisation.

One of the unexpected outcomes of the project has been the personal development of the staff involved. People who were shy and quiet became more vocal, some even went on to present publicly and facilitate sessions. Other people told us how they felt an increase in confidence and a sense of empowerment in many different ways.

These individual ‘wins’ reminds us that culture change does in fact happen one person at a time. If you effect a change in a couple of people a month, and that’s a lasting change, it won’t be long before the whole organisation changes. There is also a tipping point when there will be sudden change due to these so called small changes- so the overall impact is a huge shift.


This project won the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Customer Service in 2016.