Lifted by the best practices

ON THE very day that the Government published its long-awaited white paper on competitiveness, a handful of British companies were demonstrating that they were on the way to competing with the best in the world.

The winners of the first Management Today/Arthur Andersen Best Practices Awards for Service Excellence come from a variety of businesses, including the public sector. But they are united by adherence to four basic principles identified by Andersen. These are:

Corporate focus - how an organisation defines, communicates and demonstrates its personal commitment to customer satisfaction;

Market understanding - how an organisation gathers information to understand the current expectations of its customers and anticipate their future needs;

Process alignment - how effectively the business is structured to deliver its services and products to satisfy customers;

Shared values - how far everyone in the organisation is committed to meeting customer needs.

More than 1,000 companies from all over the country applied for the initial self-assessment questionnaire, and 226 entered. After seeking much more detailed information the judges drew up a shortlist of 45 organisations to be visited.

Their travels produced eight regional winners - including the eventual overall winner, Greenock-based health insurance company, Cigna., Others were cutler Richardson Sheffield and the much-feted Braintree District Council.

Cigna, which has already featured in these pages, was considered to stand out because it was a textbook example of 'customer focus' - it treats customer satisfaction as the priority driving everything in the business.

This approach is manifested in the company's policy of fining itself if it fails to meet its own service standards. Though some clients see the payments as a gimmick, they apparently appreciate what they represent.

And the management of the company - greatly slimmed down in recent years as it has taken empowerment to the point of allowing employees to hire and fire each other - feels its approach has been a significant factor in the turnaround from the disaster that followed the acquisition of another insurer in the mid-1980s.

The small company category winner, Richardson Sheffield, makes Laser knives - the cooks' favourites. Commitment to the customers there means that the sales director, Kathy Sanchez, spends most of her time representing them.

Because the people she acts for are so demanding, they are encouraged to become involved in the development of new products. And as long as sales prospects looks attractive enough, the management appears to be prepared to go to almost any lengths to secure an order. Gordon Bridge, the managing director, takes the adage that the customer is always right to the extent of always replacing a damaged knife - 'even when it's been totally abused'.

When it came to the winner of the the not-for-profit organisation category, Howard Barrett, leader of Andersen's customer-satisfaction practice and one of the judges, said Braintree council was providing 'the sort of local government that I want in the area I live in'.

But perhaps the ultimate accolade is that the winning qualities seen in these and the other commended organisations, such as the Automobile Association and Birmingham Midshires Building Society, are being added to the best practices 'knowledge base' that Andersen has been building up at a cost of millions of dollars in recent years.

As Jim Wadia, managing partner of the UK firm, said at last week's awards ceremony, this would help Andersen improve as a professional services group itself and enable it to pass on tips to clients.

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin