St Pancras HR innovation meets quality customer service needs

October 24, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
An objective to ensure that customer services at Londonís newly restored St Pancras International rail terminus match the quality of new facilities has been met in an innovative human resources initiative by Echelon Learning on behalf of London & Continental Railways (LCR).

In addition to being a key destination for Eurostar and UK high-speed rail services, St Pancras International - which re-opens November 14th after an £800m restoration - has become a retail and leisure destination.

The station offers Europe's longest champagne bar, a daily farmersí market, a world-class brasserie and an individual mix of 67 independent boutiques and shops featuring some of High Street retailís best known brands.

LCR has built a quality service brand to match the expectations of the stationís retail and hospitality tenants from ground-up, starting with recruitment.

Interview forums, devised by advisors Echelon Learning, saw 400 potential recruits selected after telephone screening from a total application of 1,570, attend half-day assessment workshops at Arsenalís Emirates football stadium.

Groups of up to 12 candidates participated in different customer service scenarios played out by actors. Further exercises tested candidatesí observation skills by identifying irregularities and potential hazards in a specially contrived photograph of the stationís concourse.

Skills of acuity were also assessed through listening to and drafting a report of an incident.
One-to-one interviews rounded off the exercise observed by a team of Echelonís assessors and 77 customer service officers (CSOs) were subsequently appointed.

Further brand building during induction involved CSOs honing their customer service skills and developing an understanding of a future role involving a number of job-based service practices.

St Pancras is heralded as the most technologically advanced railway station in the world. Digital glass screens behind service desks will display customer information. A single departures board is being replaced with customer information points located around the station as well as small departures board scrolling train information.

A future development enables passengers to receive information about train departure times and platform numbers via SMS.

In training, CSOs have also been acquainted with the technologies being implemented to assist them, including customer service information updated regularly via each individualís mobile personal digital assistance (PDAs).

"Staff technical training and induction have been followed by further customer care training, putting in place the criteria by which they are perceived and judged by the travelling public," explains Echelon director David Hill.

Hill adds that the programme - from recruitment and selection to induction and customer care training - has been devised to allow the 'seamless' development of a highly professional brand of customer service.

Alison Smith, station manager St Pancras and Ebbsfleet international stations cites the initiative as playing an important part in the development of the St Pancras International brand.

"Both St Pancras International and Ebbsfleet International are being transformed to set new standards for railway stations in the 21st century. St Pancras International, as Eurostarís new central London home, will also be a place where the heart of London meets the heart of Europe," she says.

"With expectations justifiably high, it is vital that station users will be met and helped by service staff not only with the right knowledge but also highest level of inter-personal skills that this job demands.

"Echelonís strategy to use actors in such an impressive venue lent the proceedings a real Ďwowí factor. It also enabled us to quickly identify and develop the best candidates from so many applicants."

The process worked so well that LCR has adopted it for the integration of new recruits with existing staff members.

Echelon has held Development Centres for St Pancrasís 70 existing staff. The company has adapted its Interview Forum model to assess existing levels of competence to deliver LCRís visionary Service Brand and in addition the capability of each staff member to act as either mentor, role model or coach to the new recruits. Existing staff were also assessed in the advanced technical skills required to work in the new station control room.

Additional processes provided by Echelon will be used for further development of staff skill sets in brand service development and customer service training.

Further information: www.echelonlearning.co.uk and www.stpancras.com
ends

Media contact: Peter Muir Tel + 44 (0)1296 715228; Email: echelon@pmpr.co.uk

Sales contact: David Hill Tel + 44 (0)20 8568 1500; Email: david@echelonl.com


About Echelon Learning Ltd

Echelon Learning is a consultancy-led publishing house that integrates electronically-delivered knowledge and learning into the development of management skills and business performance.