West Mercia Constabulary
The Home Office Mandate
Confidence and Satisfaction with the Police
West Mercia Constabulary is responsible for the fourth largest policing district in Britain, providing services to the citizens of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and the Wrekin and Worcestershire. Its mission, “Serving – Protecting – Making the Difference” addresses the government’s Citizen-Focus Agenda: Confidence & Satisfaction with the Police. Its aim is to have a highly-motivated workforce that strives to win the trust and confidence of the community.
To improve its customer service further, the Constabulary turned to Mary Gober International (MGI). Since 2005 MGI has trained more than 1,000 of its staff in the unique Gober Method™ with impressive results.
The Constabulary’s Contact Centre (where the training was first delivered) commissioned research into its performance during 2008 and caller responses have reached new levels:
- 97% say they are satisfied with the way their call was handled
- 99% say they were treated politely
- 97% say the person they spoke to took the matter seriously
- 91% say they were told what would happen next
Responses to a national framework of questions established by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have also been encouraging:
- The percentage of victims of crime saying that they were satisfied with how their case was handled went up from 58% at the end of 2007 to over 70% in early 2009
Staff are much happier too:
- Sickness absence down by 25%
- Staff attrition rates down to 7% – much lower than the average nationwide
The availability of staff is particularly important for a police force, as it helps to ensure the highest levels of public service are maintained on each shift.
The project leader, John Jones, says:
“MGI’s work has given us, and continues to give us, the very best and the most positive learning experience we have ever had. The results speak for themselves.”
A Drive for Change
As Chief Superintendant, John Jones led the Constabulary’s 250 Contact Centre staff, who handle 1.5 million calls a year – many from people in life-threatening situations. Looking back to the challenges facing his team in 2005, John says:
“We needed to be more customer-focused, to recognise the needs of the caller and respond accordingly. We were too concerned with handling calls quickly to meet our targets, sometimes at the expense of quality. We needed staff to manage calls in a completely different way and to interact with customers more fully.”
The Training Manager for the Contact Centre agrees:
“We wanted staff to demonstrate more of a positive attitude and a willingness to help the customer, as a result, to feel better about themselves.”
The Constabulary knew that greater customer satisfaction and increased public confidence would have a beneficial knock-on effect, as citizens are the eyes and ears of the police – helping with the prevention, early detection and resolution of crime. In addition, staff who give a good service to the public are typically happier, more fulfilled and take less sick leave.
Working with Mary Gober International
The Tendering & Selection Process
In line with the rigorous tendering requirements of public-sector organisations, the Constabulary carefully considered several customer-service training providers, comparing them, among other factors, for quality and value for money. One stood out. Only MGI demonstrated a proven and unique methodology, and the flexibility to tailor it to the Constabulary’s exact requirements, linking it directly to the “Make a Difference” mission.
John Jones says:
“All the senior managers agreed on MGI. The Gober Method looked and felt like something that we should be doing. It was straight forward, fundamental, had exactly the principles we were looking for and was competitively priced.”
John knew it presented an opportunity to change the hearts and minds of staff. He attended an MGI 2‑Day Open Seminar himself and describes his immediate reaction:
“I thought, ‘Why didn’t I go on something like this 30 years ago?’ It really inspired me.”
Tailoring the Content & Pilot Seminar
To tailor the Gober Method to the Constabulary’s requirements, MGI’s consultants conducted hands-on research, listening to many calls and even completing a night shift to understand the issues facing staff. Then, in November 2005, they delivered a 2-day pilot seminar for a group of staff with differing levels of experience and from different functions within the Contact Centre. The training was so successful, with 100% approval from delegates, that the Constabulary asked MGI to do a series of 2‑day seminars for the entire Contact Centre team, which were carried out in the first half of 2006.
Taking the Gober Method Force-wide
Word quickly spread about the effectiveness of the Gober Method throughout the Constabulary. Team leaders requested the seminars for their own staff, so over the next two years MGI trained 1,000 people. It adapted its approach to the needs of each team:
- Operation Support Staff
- Chief Officer’s Secretariat
- Public Service Desks
- Front Counter Staff
- Local Policing Teams
- Justice Support Unit (including the Fire Arms and Victims Support Teams)
- Professional Standards Department
Sustaining Cultural Change and Training Trainers
The training continues and is now part of the induction process for new recruits. To embed the Gober Method in the Constabulary’s culture, MGI has trained 36 staff from all parts of the organisation to be accredited Gober Method coaches. This ensures that the organisation incorporates the Method’s teachings into its day-to-day management systems, and it is helping the organisation meet its commitments under the national Policing Pledge – a nationwide set of promises about the services the police must provide.
In addition, MGI has accredited and licensed 4 Constabulary staff as full Gober Method trainers. These approved trainers are now ready to deliver the seminars to everyone in the Constabulary, ensuring that it remains a major part of the organisation’s culture.
The Gober Method is now the “starting point” for all other training courses, which ensures that all training within the organisation is consistent with the Gober Method’s principles. It also ensures that the Method’s teaching is continually reinforced.
An Immediate Impact
MGI’s training instantly had an impact on the Constabulary’s culture. For example, among the Contact Centre team there was a change in attitude and a readiness to retrieve information that a caller had given on previous calls. John Jones noticed how his staff were taking much greater account of the individual circumstances of callers, and adapting accordingly:
“It became obvious how inconsistent we had been before. Now, by applying the Gober Method, in emergency and non-emergency situations, staff do more to listen and understand and to ensure that the customer is satisfied in all respects. We do what we say we will and keep people informed.”
Contact Centre managers also observed how the culture shifted straight away as staff quickly started to use the Gober Language of Service, demonstrating to customers that they were taking real ownership of problems.
The training had other unexpected benefits. On MGI’s advice, the Constabulary made a number of changes to its standard switchboard greeting, including the change from “How can I help you?” to “How may I direct your call?” This simple alteration meant that callers no longer wasted time explaining their issue to switchboard staff, only to have to do so again when directed to the appropriate team. Within days, the Constabulary received calls from the Home Office and the Inspector of Constabulary, who noticed the change. They praised the move toward a more efficient way of handling incoming calls to the police.
The Mary Gober Experience
The Constabulary has been impressed by MGI’s organisation and commitment, which John Jones describes as:
“Exceptional at all times. Its consultants were a joy to work with. Professional, motivational, inspirational, and exceptionally flexible and responsive to our needs.”
The Training Manager was impressed by the “excellent” way MGI adapted the Gober Method to an emergency environment:
“It was incredibly instructive how MGI examined calls handled by Constabulary staff and acted out better ways of managing them.”
Once John Jones got to know Mary Gober and her team, he understood the importance of putting time and effort into the programme:
“Now I realise that perfection is only achieved by dedication and commitment and that’s what you get with MGI.”
In summary, John Jones says:
“We have developed valuable skills and enjoyed every moment of our development. MGI is a first-class company delivering a first-class product. You will not fail to be inspired by them and your staff and customers will gain tremendously.”