Kent Fire and Rescue Service was awarded ServiceMark by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) in August 2021. The ServiceMark is a national standard recognising an organisation's achievement in customer service. Being accredited by an independent organisation enables us to check our level of customer service and identify areas for improvement. ServiceMark accreditation also demonstrates to customers and colleagues that we are committed to continual improvements in service delivery.
To gain the accreditation we undertook a survey with external customers that had used our services, including our emergency response (for example someone who had experienced a fire), home fire safety visit and businesses where we had given advice or undertaken a fire safety audit. We also asked our colleagues for their perception of our customer service levels, both for external services and internal services such as IT support.
Our scores from both surveys showed an exceptionally high level of customer service which enabled us to apply for the ServiceMark accreditation. During June 2021, an assessor from the ICS spoke with colleagues across KFRS about their experiences of customer service, and KFRS was awarded the ServiceMark accreditation, making us the first fire service to achieve this recognition.
Here is a short summary of what the assessor had to say:
“Kent Fire and Rescue Service managed to turn the customer culture completely on its head in the most positive way. …. I was truly impressed with how well this shift has been managed, how much has been achieved in a relatively short time for such a large organisation…”
“After meeting and speaking with team members from across the organisation it was clear that people at Kent Fire and Rescue service are highly engaged, passionate about what they do, dedicated to their customers, and loyal to the organisation.”
"Kent Fire and Rescue Service set themselves up with a strong brand message – Together. It communicates how the Service wants to position themselves in their communities – working together with colleagues, customers, suppliers and partners to build a world that is safer, more inclusive and more involved.
"The organisation has a simple and compelling vision and aim – Working together, saving lives, and reducing harm.
"Commitment to delivering great service is driven from the top and is done so with passion and determination.
"The nature of the organisation means that the Service’s activities are monitored by various regulators for compliance. And while the team know and understand that it was clear that the focus stays firmly on achieving the best outcome for the customer and on doing the right thing.
"Kent Fire and Rescue Service has been on a journey to reinvent itself for a number of years. Those who have been with the organisation for a while confirmed that they have seen a complete culture shift driven by the relentless commitment to the customer. Where often there is a clear priorities structure that usually puts health and safety above everything else, at Kent customers’ safety and wellbeing and delivering great service go hand in hand.
"Customer experience goes beyond making safe, often presenting challenges that customers themselves don’t always anticipate. All teams, from first responders to volunteers to education specialists look at whole customer journey and identify where support can be offered beyond an incident, or how an incident can be prevented.
"All those I met were friendly, professional and very open in their approach. The passion for helping people and looking after each other came through in every conversation. And the same approach seems to be taken when working with colleagues –treating everyone as valued customers.
"Caring about customers is at the heart of what draws people to join Kent Fire and Rescue Service. Customer ethos links fully with the overall ethos of the organisation – to look after people, to serve their communities. And from all the evidence I saw, this isn’t just a popular mantra. Employees really do put themselves in their customers’ shoes and go above and beyond to ensure a positive outcome and a good experience for customers. They genuinely care.
"As an emergency service provider, the [KFRS] team understands that the nature of customer contact is often emotional. And … customer experience is looked at from a wider angle than attending an incident.
"Employees are supported in building their Emotional Intelligence skills through training and coaching opportunities supported by their line managers. As part of the diversity and inclusion commitment, there is a strong focus on understanding the needs of different communities. Again, this extends beyond offering service that is accessible. The organisation considers how customers prefer to interact with them … what could alienate them or make them less likely to engage in a positive way."