Improve your services in 7 steps [case RVO]

How do you develop a service that meets the needs and emotions and that reflects the human dimension? Read about the approach and lessons of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

Covid-19 will arrive in February 2020, leaving a large group of entrepreneurs in great uncertainty. It is precisely then that it is important to develop a service that meets the needs and emotions. Robert Vels (Lead Service Improvement Teams RVO) saw this as an opportunity to get the organization on board and to choose a new approach with which we respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of the customer.

The birth of the Service Improvement Team (SVT) is a fact. A multidisciplinary team that helps to design services from the perspective of the customer. Robert: “We stay away from planning and advice, we are going to do it!” Creating and improving services together with the entrepreneur, with direct implementation of improvement initiatives. Good results have been achieved since the team was founded in March 2020. The most important: a very fast payment for entrepreneurs (80% of the entrepreneurs approved this within 2-3 working days). For example, the entrepreneur found the information understandable and the application process easy. This was fed back during the feedback interviews.

The bonus for RVO? To instigate a customer-oriented way of thinking, an improved way of collaboration and connection between different teams.

Curious? In this article you will read the approach, the lessons, the success elements and the results of Robert and his team, so that you can get started tomorrow to be relevant to your customer.

1. Context: strategic goal & challenges

Customer focus has long been a strategic spearhead of the RVO and in particular for the customer, advice and information (KAI) department. “How do we organize the service from the customer’s perspective? How do we get the employees within our organization on board? ” Covid-19 ensured that from March 2020, new arrangements had to be made to support entrepreneurs within a very short time. The RVO faces a number of challenges:

First time contact with RVO

Taxi drivers, catering entrepreneurs and hairdressers: entrepreneurs who usually do not come into contact with RVO before. How do we make the application process as easy as possible for them? The entrepreneur is in dire need, with a lot of emotion and needs a quick response to his request. How do we facilitate and support them in this?

Internal way of working is not sufficient

Where customer surveys with lead times of three months were common, there is no time for this now. How do we speed up the way of working based on feedback, in order to be able to adjust it the next day? In conversation with the customer today, work it out tomorrow and implement it the next day.

Encourage customer-oriented thinking

Let our employees experience the benefits of working on the basis of customer needs and their corresponding ‘level of knowledge’. Making the voice of the customer loud in different parts of the organization in a new way.

2. Approach: finding & connecting each other

The KAI department and the SVT have been carefully composed based on the challenges. Including customer researchers from the customer analysis team, but also people outside. Is a multidisciplinary composition key to ensure speed, connection and support within the RVO, to enable direct application in the service provision. The basis consists of a mix of internal and external employees. Customer researchers, service designers, data analysts, SEO specialists and, depending on the issue, various specialists from RVO.

We worked in a silo-transcending team that was requested by managers within RVO. We were deployed on the most diverse issues, but always with one common denominator: realizing improvement for the customer. Ensuring that service provision is relevant to customers. We measured this by obtaining an 8+ during the customer satisfaction survey.

Collaboration between colleagues from different departments is of enormous added value. Serving the higher purpose together brings a refreshing dynamic and renewed energy. Together we work on services for entrepreneurs, each on a different part of it.

We discuss this internally with the metaphor (see the image below). The blind men and the elephant – six blind people feel like an elephant – Everyone has an image of reality and the RVO services based on their own expertise. These images come together in the service from the customer’s perspective. Our approach, in which the customer journey is central, helps to visualize that perspective. It helps to connect and work towards the same goal.

The blind men and the elephant

3. Collaboration: getting used to & winning

The way of working must serve the purpose. Short-cycle, based on customer needs and testing with real entrepreneurs from the start. Continuously turn on the improvement engine: improve, validate, apply, test and scale up. Iteratively in collaboration with the entrepreneur.

In addition to short-cyclical work, we opt for a ‘relay sprint’ in order to achieve an improvement. In concrete terms, this means that we come up with an improvement idea based on the customer’s needs. And that we immediately carry out these associated actions together with the relevant colleague. As an SVT, together with colleagues from the relevant department, we ‘only let go of the baton’ after the improvement action has been taken.

Action-oriented and achieve quick results with your services

For example, Robert says: “We present the list of improvement actions to the team with the necessary background information. Then we immediately proceed to do. Who and what do we need to make this happen? If it turns out that we cannot deliver in this composition, for example due to a lack of authorization or the required skills and capacity. Then we look for the person who does. We involve this person and hold on to it until the improvement idea has been implemented. This provides enormous strength, speed and direct impact for the entrepreneur. ”

The action-oriented and rapid achievement of results is well received. “In our approach we do not get to the bottom of the matter, but we prioritize in a different way.

  • What is really urgent for the customer?
  • What can we implement now?
  • What capacity is available?

We are not going for a 10 now, because every tenth point up is already a profit. This is a switch in mindset and works like a rocket. ”

Surprise your employees

It takes some getting used to such a new way of working. Robert: “Joining an improvement team where decisiveness and pace are high, starts from the customer’s perception instead of your own expertise and ideas.” We sometimes hear things like: “Who are you and what are you coming to bring? I don’t have time for this or I know, why test again at the customer?” It is understandable, as a colleague you have been working for RVO for a long time, you have an enormous amount of experience and substantive knowledge, you know what your customer wants, right? Yet colleagues come back to this after experiencing the elements of this new approach.

Listening to customers provides our employees with new insights. It teaches them to think from the perspective of someone who still knows nothing about a scheme and who encounters little ‘government jargon’ in everyday life. You have to keep surprising your employees in a positive way.

4. Getting started: measuring & knowing

Involving the entrepreneur directly provides qualitative data. But we also substantiate our processes quantitatively. We map out the customer journey sharply and use information from customer behavior on the website and extensive analyzes of customer contact and feedback.

We see that entrepreneurs who use our advice tool regarding the new scheme, were able to successfully complete the form more often and faster. The conversion in the form increased by 42 percent. A very beautiful effect and very valuable. For example, we see that such a tool is of value to the entrepreneur and we can guide them to this tool on the website. Such confirmation is educational and motivating for our team and colleagues. Extensive web analyzes enable us to measure the entire chain from request to processing.

Robert: ”Another beautiful unexpected win. We do not use respondent recruitment agencies. We approach our respondents via the website or we call the entrepreneur himself. The entrepreneur likes to cooperate, feels heard and is happy to contribute. This is valuable for both parties. Because the multidisciplinary team comes into direct contact with the entrepreneur, the customer becomes a real person again for them. A great way to bring the entrepreneur’s voice into the organization. Covid-19 brought us to a new insight: speaking to the customer via video calls works just as well. For them it is an hour that easily fits into their day, instead of coming to the office. ”

Employees who work on a successful service

5. Voice of the customer: divide & multiply

Being in contact with real entrepreneurs, their perception and needs makes a difference. How do we give the rest of the organization this experience? How do we share these great successes, our lessons and how do we create commotion on the subject?

Robert: “We bring the voice of the customer into the organization via monthly demos. The video conversations with customers are recorded (after permission). From these conversations we cut relevant, short fragments, simply by colleagues from the SVT, no complicated actions. We present these videos or some good quotes in our monthly ‘demo’. Here we share our approach, insights and results with colleagues. This ensures growing awareness among colleagues, stimulates customer-oriented thinking and increases the name recognition of the SVT. As a result, we receive more issues from different corners of the organization, even more support from the top and we can therefore improve our services in a more customer-oriented way. The visual aspect leaves a greater impression and memory with people than a score on a customer survey. ”

6. Result? To govern = to look ahead!

“It has really brought about change. Nowadays managers ask their team: where do we see this reflected in the customer journey? I think that’s wonderful. The ideas and its effects are really mastered in the organization. Of course I can always do more, but I am already very proud of this beginning. The enthusiasm that arose by working in this way, the added value that is recognized, convinced colleagues, board members and most importantly: a well-helped entrepreneur, according to Robert. ”

The emergence of the SVT has led to success in various ways. An understandable scheme for the entrepreneur, with a process that is easy and quick to follow. We have achieved that goal. Robert: “Greater agility by creating and improving services with the entrepreneur, with attention to the human dimension. In addition, there is internal connection through cross-functional collaboration. Encouraging customer-oriented thinking by sharing the customer’s voice. Started with one team, now with three teams and hopefully even more teams in the future! ”

7. Five practical tips for successful service provision

  1. Start doing! The SVT not only advises, it also cooperates. Grab an improvement idea and don’t let go until it’s implemented. Pick up, finish and on.
  2. Arrange a multidisciplinary team: take care of customer researchers, service designers, data analysts and specialized colleagues. Keep a short line between research, design, implementation and measurement.
  3. Involve evangelists: who dares to oppose and oppose? Who shows guts? Make sure they are available full-time for the SVT to have focus.
  4. Do not be afraid: recruit your respondents yourself, do not outsource and call your customer yourself. They are happy to cooperate. It is valuable for both parties.
  5. Bring the voice of the customer into the organization: ensure that colleagues from all over the organization are in contact with the entrepreneur by letting them join in conversations. Show what you are working on by doing demos and portray the customer through simple videos to show your feedback on research and improvements, inspire others!

What are you going to work with?


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