Service Excellence at Mitie
We speak with Peter Henderson, the Business Communication and Governance Lead at Mitie and Royal London on their commitment to, and passion for, service excellence in everything that they do. Hear about their journey of implementing Hospitality Assured with Royal London and the results it’s brought for their business.
Karen: Tell us a little about how you came to work in facilities management.
Peter: It was my love of customer services. My first ever job was working for my friend who owns a saddlery where I really enjoyed the interactions with customers. After graduating in Hospitality Management, I began work in a hotel reception on Eastbourne seafront then progressed to reception management in central London hotels with Radisson Edwardian. Working in hotel reception you touch every element of what happens in a hotel, not just the customer service facing front house so what I was actually doing was more closely linked to facilities.
I then moved to Office Concierge working in front of house before tupeing into Mitie. With Mitie being huge there’s a lot of opportunity to grow which has led me to my current position at Royal London looking after the communication and governance on the contract.
Karen: It’s interesting that you started off in customer services and that’s been a key driving factor for you as well as being a core element within the Hospitality Assured accreditation process.
Peter: I’m passionate about it yes! Genuinely for me it’s what I get the most out of. I guess it’s the unknown element of interacting with customers. I like variety and getting to know what makes people tick, as well as discovering what we can do to make things better for them. Now, I use my experience to help others who are delivering i.e. our operational teams so what they get out of it, I get out of it as well.
Karen: What are the most outstanding features of your organisation?
Peter: Mitie is a huge organisation for facilities in the UK with over 70,000 employees. I think their breadth of knowledge in the facilities industry is unsurpassed. There is a huge amount of diversity not just the people coming from many different backgrounds with different skill sets, but also the type of contracts that we cover – some like Sky are very creative and some, such as Royal London, are very much city-based. With this diversity you have to be creative. Mitie is also a very supportive and caring organisation. It’s an organisation that wants to grow its people – there are many internal promotions and that growth is fantastic. I’ve known team members go from reception into engineering and some from engineering to directors. There’s no real ceiling. If you have the drive and the personal motivation, Mitie has the resources and the support structure to get you where you want to be. You can’t ask for more from an organisation.
As part of that nurturing aspect, training is strong as well – the opportunity to learn is vast and there’s also the variety of contracts that you can learn from, too. We are adaptable for each contract. We write an extensive communication piece for the whole contract to ensure we meet our client needs. That’s been a constant driver throughout the years. Also, within each contract, you have conversations on a regular basis with your client about their needs to ensure you are on top of what your customers are actually saying to you, not what you think they’re saying. You always need to be listening to your customer.
Karen: When did you first work with Hospitality Assured?
Peter: It was with Marsh McLennan, a huge American insurance firm in the city that Mitie provide the services for.
We wanted to push ourselves on the contract and elevate the service levels. The decision was made to bring Hospitality Assured in for the headquarters of Marsh McLennan to provide a structure and framework and to measure where we’re at as a base for improvement. We also wanted to demonstrate to the client our desire to progress and our drive to deliver a better service. It’s good to have things from an external source. We can all say we’re excellent, but that third party’s independent eyes are crucial in actually measuring what you’re doing, providing recommendations and maybe giving you some hard truths. Hospitality Assured provides objectivity from a client’s perspective. Our teams get to see someone else’s opinion of the service from the outside looking inward at Mitie with the relationship between Mitie and the client, because that obviously is a key driver in performance.
Performance is measured and recognised and you’re benchmarked against national standards so you can actually see where you are and, of course, you want to be at the top. When we do our annual surveys those Hospitality Assured Standards are pulling us though – you can see the tangible difference. Ultimately the experience your client is receiving and the customer journey that you’re delivering should result in an improved service.
It’s great to have good scores and ultimately it’s about delivering quality. To measure your success you need to be constantly measuring your development. When you do an assessment with Hospitality Assured, getting a high score is just part of the journey. It’s never the destination. A high score doesn’t mean you should stop developing. You need to have that constant feedback cycle and to continually look at how you can do better.
Karen: How did your first experience of working with Hospitality Assured differ from the subsequent journey of implementing Hospitality Assured with Royal London?
Peter: With Royal London I was responsible for leading the Hospitality Assured implementation for the contract, whereas we’d worked on a single site at Marsh McLennan. At Royal London, we deployed it across the contract from the start with all service lines.
I used my experience and exposure to Hospitality Assured with Mitie at Marsh McLennan and built on that at Royal London using lessons learned for what worked, what didn’t and from there was able to develop and put in place a Hospitality Assured framework at Royal London. I was looking to exceed my previous performance so there’s always a little bit of a competitive drive.
For Royal London, we made the commitment to be accredited with Hospitality Assured in our first two years of the contract as part of a kind of service commitment. It was about pulling everyone together across all of the sites, pulling all of the service lines together again across all the sites and we did it whilst we underwent TUPE with the organisation as well, having new employees who didn’t know each other. The Hospitality Assured framework was a fantastic tool to bring everyone together because it gave a common goal and focus. We all wanted to achieve the accreditation so it’s fantastic for creating bonds and a common purpose.
Communication was clear from the start. Everybody needs to understand what they are bringing to the contract and the customer – this is what I learned from my first experience with Hospitality Assured, we’re all on the journey together and included saying what we want to achieve, why we wanted to achieve it and what we were going to get out of it – explaining the benefits that we’re all going to reap from our involvement and by being as transparent as possible with everyone.
From the get-go, we ensure the process is right. Let’s get everybody buying in so the drive doesn’t just come from me as a project lead but actually comes from every individual that’s part of this journey which is a crucial part of the Hospitality Assured process and at Mitie with us working as one team with Royal London. We have a one team philosophy and that goes vertically and horizontally across all of our team members. We’ve carried this culture throughout. That one team culture is absolutely crucial and is probably one of the biggest things that we did to ensure our success with Hospitality Assured. Then it’s a case of pulling together all of the sites and teams across the country into single forums so that they all get to know each other and recognise that there’s a wider team out there beyond the site that you work in, unifying us not just within a site but actually as a contract.
When people walk into a reception in London they should get the same feel as when they walk into a reception in Manchester or in Edinburgh. Yes, there are going to be some differences because of the offices, but our approach and the warmth and service that they receive should be the same. There’s a brand that runs through that – a common experience.
The first step was for our reception team in London to get to know the reception teams in Edinburgh and Manchester so if they need support, they can reach out not just to their manager or to one of their colleagues alongside them, but also to the wider team just by picking up a phone or sending an email so we used Hospitality Assured to unify the teams.
The other thing is, we’re just really competitive. We want to be the best. We want to deliver the best. We want that reputation and to do that you can’t just work in silo; you’ve got to open your eyes and work together. By using all of the resources available to us, we’re the strongest were going to be – that encourages a mindset and openness to change which is really crucial. If people aren’t open, it’s very difficult to evolve as an organisation. That open-minded philosophy to change also welcomes questions. You’re empowered. We want to know what you think and again, that’s something that comes through bringing everyone together for open discussions.
Where a gap is identified instead of someone saying, “Well, ok, who’s going to address this gap? I want people to say, “What can we do about it?” and being able to brainstorm solutions. This is where Mitie’s strength comes in – that’s what you do.
As an organisation we’ve been really successful, too. We’ve grown rapidly and although it’s obviously been challenging over the last 2 years, we’ve continued to support our clients and our cleaning regimes have come to the fore. Buildings may be empty, but they still require servicing and need to be fully functional for when the client does come back. So, whilst we haven’t been able to directly support clients on site, we’ve been preparing the sites and ensuring they’re in a state that gives our client reassurance. Providing confidence – that’s what we’re doing. We’ve done everything within our power to look after them which has been a huge focus for Mitie.
Our relationships with our clients have been important in making sure that they are reassured that we are doing everything within our power to support them. We brought in innovations so, for example, passive air filtration within offices and sterilization are services we install. We’ve bought in solutions to try and help our clients look after their workplace as best they can, so, whilst it’s been difficult, it just means you have to think in a different way as clients’ needs change. You need to look after all visitors coming in and we all need to feel as safe as possible. Whilst these concerns always existed, the balance now means that the safety element becomes really important so our focus shifts to that.
Karen: What does achieving Hospitality Assured accreditation mean to you?
Peter: As an exercise, at the beginning of this year, we reflected on the previous year and said what was your best moment? For me it was the precise moment that our Hospitality Assured score was unveiled, and it was like lifting the FA Cup for me because so much work and commitment had gone into it throughout the year, not just for myself, but for everyone on the contract. To achieve the result that we did was absolutely out of this world. To say it means a great deal is an understatement. We set ourselves the goal internally to achieve World Class in our first year and having attained Hospitality Assured on a different contract, I know that is no small feat. To achieve that in our first year with TUPE colleagues, it was out of this world. Colleagues coming in are bound to feel uncertain of a new organisation but Hospitality Assured really gave a stimulus and a common goal. It was really helpful to bring everyone together. To achieve World Class from Hospitality Assured was really gratifying for the team knowing that all of their efforts are recognised – that means everything to me.
Hospitality Assured is about quality and customer service and also about all our processes and procedures. That support, that customer service doesn’t just benchmark the service delivery, there’s all the work that goes into the back end, so it was really helpful creating that robust structure. That structure doesn’t just disappear once you achieve the accreditation, it’s there and is something that we build on. Achieving the accreditation was absolutely fantastic! I’m over the moon and at 8:00 in in my head the following day it was what’s next? You don’t want to sit still. You just can’t, you’ve got it, but It’s a mark in the sand on your journey so from now on World Class standard is the new norm and we need to build on that. We’re not just going to sit back and go, “Oh, we’ve got World Class, you know, look at us. Obviously, we’ll take the moment to celebrate, that’s really important as well but we want to build on it and say ok, World Class is the new norm. What’s next? How are we going to drive this forward?
Karen: How has Hospitality Assured accreditation changed the way that you work at Mitie?
Peter: As a contract within Mitie, our reputation is hugely enhanced. We are sought after within Mitie for our expertise and in recognition of what we’ve done well which has encouraged more collaborative working. In Mitie it’s widely recognized that Hospitality Assured is really valuable accreditation and something that is worthy of achievement for any contracts, so it’s something that we are promoting throughout as we want to continue to excel and are looking for those stages of improvement.
It’s a credit to Hospitality Assured and a fantastic journey. To have worked with Max and the framework that’s in place is really fantastic, and that’s been recognised, too. It’s a very useful framework, I know, and I have consulted with several contracts who are interested in it. I’m sure there are others out there who are also looking to bring Hospitality Assured in – it’s not just me. Everybody on the contract has grown as a result of Hospitality Assured and everybody’s expertise is much stronger. There’s a level of knowledge that Hospitality Assured brings out and ensures that everybody is aware of for any given contract. You may have already had that knowledge there but it wouldn’t necessarily be so widespread. Again, it’s great for building people up and developing them. Showing people what they’re capable of, and it’s a fantastic validation tool as well for celebrating what you do right, not just in our eyes but also in the eyes of the client. Clients will appreciate that third party validation, too.
On a contractual level Hospitality Assured encourages that forging of a relationship with the client and it ensures your communication structure is really strong in that clients are put front and centre of the decisions that you make. We’re ensuring that we’re doing what our client wants and needs as opposed to what we think our client wants and needs. That relationship is crucial, and with Hospitality Assured the focus on the customer promise and everything building outwards from there, is what makes it one of its great strengths as a framework.
Karen: What would you say to others who might be considering embarking on Hospitality Assured accreditation?
Peter: Do it! You’ve got nothing to lose. Be prepared for hard work. Be prepared to challenge what you do and how you do it. It’s a fantastic tool for breaking down barriers, bringing everyone together and ultimately excelling in what you do and getting recognition for the great things you already do.
It is a lot to take on especially when you’re already busy. It does feel like you are sometimes doing 2 jobs because you’ve got your delivery on one side and on the other, you’re looking at the entire structure of what you’re doing and you’re challenging it but it’s worth pushing through for the results that come. It was great and you will be supported on the way – I mean working with Max was fantastic. He was always readily available. His knowledge really is unsurpassed in the industry. He put every single person at ease. During assessments, our team members may have been nervous to talk to Max thinking they don’t want to say the wrong thing, but they all came out with a smile on their face and they all enjoyed the process. Now that may have been relief, but I’d like to think also that within their conversation they saw that Max helped them to realise that what they were doing was really, really good and they got a small part of that larger Hospitality Assured validation from him directly. It gave them a spring in their step, so yes, I really enjoyed working with the Hospitality Assured team. Using their knowledge and gaining from their support was brilliant. I don’t know if that’s Max or Hospitality Assured, but his approach was really good because it wasn’t instructive, it was always supportive and guiding. And then if you chose to engage to reach out to him he would always ensure that he supported. Often, too, if you hadn’t reached out to him for a while he would reach out to you. Is everything OK? Do you need any assistance and you can’t really ask for anything more than that. So yes, it’s a difficult journey, but you’re not alone.
It’s validation, then once you’ve got everything in place, it’s a case of ensuring you maintain and build on that and the values you embed stay with you.
Karen: And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Peter: I think this is actually the hardest question to answer. It’s don’t take life too seriously. It’s never as bad as you think it is.