Skipton finds relationships key to delivering consistent service quality

Establishing a high quality service demands skills, but maintaining it is a question of attitude and behaviour – and that’s a whole other challenge.

Solution Cell’s team illuminated the task and created pathways to enable all of Skipton’s intermediary team to be their best.

Part of the danger with conventional training is that those being trained, and even occasionally those commissioning the training, might see it as a shrink-wrapped solution. Yet the challenges are often more nuanced, and the solutions need care in design and subtlety in execution to achieve lasting success.

Paul Darwin, Sales Director, Skipton Building Society, recognised that the needs of his people were not going to be met with a box-ticking exercise. “Many training courses with sales people are in the here and now,” he reflects. “I wanted to challenge that view by introducing something with more of a long term impact on behaviour.”

The Skipton, in common with other mutuals, invests a lot of time in developing its people. “It’s a professional benefit and good for business, but as we are a mutual we measure our performance in more ways than pure sales,” explains Paul, implying a broader agenda encompassing staff engagement, career fulfilment and professional development.

“We were looking for a company able to demonstrate their ability to up-skill people and change performance over time. In Solution Cell we could see that embedding is an integral part of delivery.”

“So, we set about a programme to up-skill people based on identifying where they were in relation to the key skills and behaviours we believe we need from our business development and account managers.” His aim is to create a consistent service, one that is more natural than forced, where key behaviours become part of the team’s persona, a state of ‘unconscious competence’, as Paul styles it.

As with any team, different people travel different journeys. “We began our programme with Solution Cell establishing current practices and where improvements could be made en route to creating a more strategic approach to our relationships with brokers,” explains Paul Darwin.

There are two parts to the strategy: on the one hand being better at identifying the brokers with whom The Skipton should be placing its business, and on the other thinking more long term about its contact strategy to ensure that it gets an appropriate share of the right brokers’ business.

On a personal level the programme needed to fit into a broader organisational vision: to be the mutual lender of choice for its target brokers. The idea is for individuals to be the best they can be – at once inclusive and aspirational and entirely fitting the objectives Skipton sets itself.

The programme Solution Cell designed with Paul and his team focused on identifying improvements in behaviours that might bring about more consistency, yet without appearing to be too prescriptive. Team members are able to own it and make it work for them.

One example of the detail included establishing a more consistent approach to simple things like how people prepare for and conduct meetings. Although apparently small, such things can have a big long term impact. Specific modules helped the team make improvements and develop a more joined up approach to relationship management through more structured listening and communication: setting agendas and preplanning calls, having objectives and tracking outcomes more clearly.

With Solution Cell’s help, Skipton’s intermediary sales team is working better. “We’re already seeing greater consistency in how we approach things,” Paul reveals. “We’re maximising our investment in time in recognising opportunities and delivering appropriate propositions. The whole process has paid dividends in developing stronger more meaningful relationships with the right brokers.”

Altogether, the programme works for Skipton and its stakeholders. In being their best, the team is more effective, energised and fulfilled, brokers’ relationships are strengthened, as they are getting more of the decisions they want, and borrowers are happier as they are more likely to meet Skipton’s criteria and access the funds they need.

"We were looking for a company able to demonstrate their ability to up-skill people and change performance over time. In Solution Cell we could see that embedding is an integral part of delivery."

Paul Darwin, Sales Director, Skipton Building Society